Thursday, 12 September 2013

Who Is Chris Grayling?

You can tell it's the party political season because suddenly all hyper-ambitious politicians find lots of reasons to grab the media limelight. So it is that Chris Grayling seems to be relentlessly popping up saying all sorts of attention-grabbing crap in order no doubt to warm up his groupies in readiness for the Conservative Party conference in a few weeks time.

Here he is in the Daily Mail last week talking about his campaign to 'stop activists playing legal games' or Judicial Review as we know it:-

Charities and ‘professional’ campaign groups will no longer be allowed to use the courts to delay major house-building projects or government cuts to benefits, under plans unveiled today. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wants to stop activists mounting ‘spurious legal challenges’ he says serve only to generate ‘media coverage for their cause’.
They will be banned from bringing judicial reviews – in which a court rules on whether the government is acting lawfully – which can delay developments and policies by years.

I think it's clear what the government's direction of travel is when you take into account the lobbying bill that's currently working its way through Parliament. Increasingly, in a political landscape where there's not a great deal of difference between all three main political party's, campaign groups are often setting the agenda and being very successful at challenging government policy. Naturally the government doesn't like it, hence the unabashed attacks on democratic and legal processes. 

Clearly political ambition comes before common sense for Chris Grayling because he goes on in the article to have a pop at charities, the very groups who he hopes will come to the rescue over the Transforming Rehabilitation omnishambles, having already thoroughly pissed off G4S and Serco. He can't resist another pop at lawyers either:-

The professional campaigners of Britain are growing in number, taking over charities, dominating BBC programmes and swarming around Westminster.
There is a steady flow of people taking up such jobs from the world of politics – former advisers and politicians joining the ranks of these serial campaigners.

In the charity sector, a whole range of former advisers from the last Government can be found in senior roles. The traffic also goes in the opposite direction, with campaigners lining up to try to become Labour MPs.

While charities inundate Westminster with campaign material, they also target the legal system as a way of trying to get their policies accepted. One essential part of the campaigner’s armoury is the judicial review, through which it is possible for them to challenge decisions of government and public bodies in the courts. As a result, they hire teams of lawyers who have turned such legal challenges into a lucrative industry.

This has really got Sir Stephen Bubb fulminating on his blog and clearly he can't stand the guy!

I suppose we should have known what was likely because the Tories have a track record of bringing in outsiders as attack dogs when they want particularly difficult jobs doing. It was Dr Beeching for slashing the rail network, Ian Mcgreggor for smashing the coal industry, Tom Winsor to take on the police and now Chris Grayling to deal with the lawyers. 

Of course the lawyers in particular despise Grayling because he's the first ever Lord Chancellor not to be a lawyer. They don't tend to mince their words, just look what they think of him here:- 

We knew that Grayling was not a lawyer. Famously the first Lord Chancellor not to be a lawyer since the 17th century. His appointment has been described by Sir Stephen Sedley in these terms
"The decision in 2012 to put a political enforcer, Chris Grayling, in charge of the legal system carried a calculated message: the rule of law was from now on, like everything else, going to be negotiable."
While the assault on legal aid has had clear political motivations lurking under the banal justifications of ‘no money, dear boy’, lip service was always paid to the principle of rule of law and access to justice – the practice being another matter entirely.
But Grayling has taken off the fig-leaf. This is now expressly about limiting, or avoiding challenges to state power. 
As I read Grayling’s poisonous words, drafted by some ambitious, unctuous, amoral SPAD perhaps but approved by him, and his triumphant assertion that Judicial Review must not be allowed to interfere with Government policy, which is, but of course, ‘for the good of the country’, I hear the distant pitter patter of jackboots and the opening solo of ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me’.
Blimey, that's strong stuff from our Learned colleagues! 

As reported recently in the Guardian, here is Grayling again, this time talking to Bench Chairs about streamlining yet further processes in the lower courts and getting Magistrates to sit on their own in front of a pile of paperwork and a computer. That should prove very popular, especially for no pay or expenses:-  

Speaking to the National Bench Chairmen's Forum, Grayling will say: "It's utterly absurd that three magistrates should spend their time rubber-stamping foregone conclusions in simple road traffic cases. Cases where the defendant doesn't contest the matter and doesn't even bother to turn up. One magistrate could deal with this much more efficiently on the papers, in an office.

"That's why we're going to legislate to remove those cases from traditional courtrooms, so that magistrates can focus their time in court on the more serious and contested cases which best use their skills."
On sentencing, Grayling expresses surprise at current practices. "It's also astonishing that something like 40% of defendants convicted in the magistrates courts and then committed to the crown court for custodial sentences receive no more than six months' imprisonment. These are cases which magistrates could and should have sentenced.
"I want to work with magistrates to find out why these cases are being escalated, and how we can address that," he will say.
He goes on to have a pop at the police and the use of out of court disposals:- 
Grayling will call for improved technology in courts and an end to "systems that won't talk to each other". He will express reservations about the rising use of out-of-court disposals by the police for crimes that are dealt with by means of a caution.
"We cannot have the situation where our high streets become fair game for groups of young people who can put a bit of money aside on the assumption that they'll get a penalty notice, and go on to commit all sorts of antisocial behaviour regardless of the consequences," Grayling will tell magistrates.
"I'm clear that repeat offenders, blighting our communities, need to be brought before the courts. But where the police have used an out-of-court disposal, there is a role for magistrates in scrutinising that."
So, if he's not a lawyer, what is he and who is he? Well here's a fascinating blog post on the OpenDemocracy website that attempts to answer this very point and remind us of his part in the MP's expenses scandal in case we've forgotten. Very useful to remember every time he appears on our tv sets looking smug:-
Chris Grayling was born into privilege, (he was smacked as a child and it did him no harm). Educated at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, he took History at Cambridge, then joined the BBC as a news trainee. He moved into management, ran TV production companies, then he jumped into another world.
He joined Burson-Marsteller, the world masters of reputation management, whose clients have included the Nigerian government during the Biafran war, the Argentinian junta after the disappearance of 35,000 civilians, the dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu and the Saudi Royal Family.
Nice guys.
Grayling spent a few years at Burson-Marsteller. (On his website it's not named, it's a "leading communications agency"). Then he parachuted into the safe Tory seat of Espom and Ewell. He rose fast through the Shadow Cabinet, developing a property portfolio with help from his Parliamentary expenses.
The Daily Telegraph revealed in 2009 that Grayling had claimed thousands of pounds to renovate a flat in central London – bought with a mortgage funded at taxpayers’ expense, even though his constituency home is less than 17 miles from the House of Commons.
The Telegraph reported:

"Within weeks of first being elected in 2001, he bought a flat . . .  for £127,000. In 2002, he set up an unusual arrangement with the Parliamentary Fees Office, claiming £625 a month for mortgages on two separate properties, both the main home and the new flat in Pimlico. This is usually against the rules, but Mr Grayling negotiated an agreement because he was unable to obtain a 100% mortgage on the London flat . . .Over the summer of 2005, Mr Grayling undertook a complete refurbishment of the flat. Shortly after the general election in May, Mr Grayling claimed £4,250 for redecorating and £1,561 for a new bathroom."
Not only that, but:
"The next month, he claimed £1,341 for new kitchen units and in July, he claimed a further £1,527 for plumbing and £1,950 for work that included rewiring the flat throughout. . .
During the 2005-06 financial year, Mr Grayling claimed close to the maximum allowance for MPs.
However, in the following financial year he continued to submit receipts for the work that had been carried out the previous year.
This effectively allowed him to spread the costs over two years – whereas he would have been unable to claim all the costs in the 2005-06 financial year. For example, in June 2006, Mr Grayling submitted an invoice for £3,534. . . A handwritten note on the invoice informed the fees office to 'Please note this has only just been issued, date notwithstanding.'"

And there was more:
"In July 2006, Mr Grayling submitted a claim for £2,250. The invoice from the decorator was dated July 2006, and referred to 'remedial and refurbishment works July 2005'.
On the claim form, Mr Grayling stated: 'Decorator has been very ill & didn’t invoice me until now.'
If the various late receipts had been submitted in the 2005-06 financial year, they would have exceeded Mr Grayling’s second home allowance for the 12-month period by over £4,700. However, they were still paid by the Fees Office."  


  1. Graylings just a headless chicken, interested in nothing but himself. Everything hes been involved with has not just been failing from the word go, but also created a vast amount of sociial problems and suffering.
    I think this is a very frightening government, they busy themselves dismanteling democracy with no concern for anything or anyone but self rewards and privilaged friends.
    The sound of jackboots (all supplied by Serco or G4S) marching up the Mall may not be a million miles away.

    1. The headless chicken analogy originates from how a chicken behaves during the time after its head has been removed by a human and it finally expires, so I think it is an unhelpful comparison to make with the current Lord Chancellor.

      He is after all Lord Chancellor, because the Prime Minister has seen fit to so appoint him. Cameron is Prime Minister because at a time past The Sovereign's advisers presumed he would be able to form a Government that would gain the support of enough Members of Parliament (voted by the electorate) to sustain a majority in Parliament and thus far he has achieved that.

      I believe it is unhelpful to demonise an individual who is performing tasks as approved by others be that a Blair, Thatcher, Cameron or even a Grayling.

      There is a quote 'know your enemy' - which I plan to do a little research about now. Grayling certainly represents the enemy of what the original spirit of probation as first enacted in 1907 represents.

      Now we also have to 'face down' nonsense reports about 'offenders' not being properly 'risk assessed' by Probation Officers and possibly other probation employees as well(I am not sure exactly who does what nowadays).

      The relevant points seem to be is at the time of release those released are former offenders - that the decisions about release are made by the Parole Board or Judges, who are acting under laws and regulations currently overseen by The Lord Chancellor. Probation Officers are professional advisers, who the Lord Chancellor will not heed, as he endeavours to destroy the structure that upholds their profession, after successive former Governments have depleted the profession by diminishing its training, by not routinely ensuring that most pre entry probation officers train alongside prospective social workers and undertake social work training placements as a way of aiding a wide understanding of those likely to become clients and the institutions with which those clients engage.

      Andrew Hatton

  2. Jim,

    Combative performance from IL on R4 Today programme earlier( BBC playback)about Inspectorate rpt on ' inadequate RA' on release plans for lifers etc...John H went toe to toe with IL.. & some good digs at CG & impending o/shambles lobbed in...this is where MoJ at their most exposed -Achilles heal -Public Protection compromised....story with legs & worth knocking copy in days ahead pre -sell off...keep up the good work..



    Offenders not 'properly risk-assessed' before release

    1. Offenders not properly risk-assessed before release?
      That sounds a bit like the job is not being done properly now. If its not being done properly now, then something needs to change. Could that develop into a pro-privatisation arguement? I feel many not 'in the know' may be convinced by that line of thought.
      If the public are being exposed to risk under the current system, then a new system is required. Lets see what the private sector can do!
      I don't subscribe to that arguement at all, but I'd also be wary of highlighting failings where the finger (undeserved perhaps) gets an oppertunity to point at probation.

    2. Thanks Mike. Will cover lifer assessment story later today or tomorrow. The timing of the story is interesting to say the least.



    3. Here is a link to the Inspectors report.

      My earlier comments were based on a quick reading of the BBC report and I misunderstood most of the criticism seems to be about Temporary Release.

      Just before I became a seconded probation officer in a London Local Prison, population then about 1,000(a wing was closed for modernisation) in 1997 the probation complement was cut from 12 to 6 with an SPO and PSO - I normally worked on a wing with 330 convicted prisoners and a turnover of about 50 or more every day with newly sentenced arrivals. It was impossible to do much more than 'fire fight' and when we got caught out with complicated parole enquiries - for prisoners for some reason or other not allocated elsewhere it was even more difficult to do any routine work with individuals - then there was the tutoring on cognitive behaviour courses - but I enjoyed the work nonetheless. However if since I left there in 2002 - numbers were cut further, I doubt that very much can be done routinely at all, especially when you have a very demanding prison hospital with numbers of extremely mentally ill folk.

      Andrew Hatton

  3. Todays Liverpool echo online,
    "Tax worker rings police and says he has 'murderous thoughts'".
    I find this article interesting and food for thought. Firstly, it falls into the catagory of violence and secondly the custodial sentence attracted is one of only 4mths.
    It may be worth reminding everyone in whitehall that not all 12mth and under sentences are given for shoplifting, and as is likely in this case many under 12mth sentences can also be associated with mental health issues.
    What do you say Mr. Grayling? Is this a case for the public sector or private sector? Oh, and just who would be responsible for making that decision anyway?

  4. Important News .....Have a look on EPIC..........vacancies for CEO CRC are on there,,,,

  5. Interesting timing of this post, Jim, as I've been thinking lately that Jeremy Wright seems to be more prominent on TR issues, and wondering if this has any significance. Most likely it's as you say and about party conference season, but I can't help hoping that the Lord Chancellor is trying to distance himself from the omnishambles.

  6. we had DTZ property round our office today. They were measuring up to value the building. Bloke said he had 40 buildings to do in the NE and cumbria

  7. Bearing in mind the state of the buildings over the past few years through the facility management contract I would be surprised if there is value in ANY building!
    The buildings will be "rented" to the CRC's but how long will they want to work in expensive , delapedated buildings??

  8. On a separate note I have seen mention of retention payments in certain minutes. No mention of details to what level of staff etc but my Trust is loosing SPO's, experienced PO's, support staff and other management at an alarming rate. There has also been an announcement that they will be taking the last cohort this month. The comment that the new NPS will be "staffed by experts" was an insult. Can we assume that those not selected are not of value. I suspect that jobs in the NPS will be ring fenced and criteria such as years experience with high risk and track record of E-OaSys quality assessments will be included. Which might I add are a subjective and unfair criteria, my Trust is currently using experienced PO's who are desperate to be SPO's to do these as well as other tasks. In my previous career we referred to these as SDO's significant development opportunities to staff but in actual fact were free labour. Also look for sickness records being slipped under the radar and a get out clause such as "for business requirements" to select staff whom faces fit to be opted in who don't quite fit given criteria. I have experienced restructures on numerous occasions and been present though out a now major blue chip energy company go through privatisation. Welcome to the world of career driven dog eat dog - as they say let battle commence and prepare for the out poor of blood, sweat and tears and destruction of careers.

    1. Retention payments - not heard that one before, but clearly loss of key staff is now becoming an issue - and what an arse Jeremy Wright is talking about experts!

  9. There is a Tweet about CEO jobs being advertised on EPIC

    "See chief exec jobs for the CRCs are on EPIC today. Existing salary, new jobs but the opportunity for CEOs to job match #tickbox #probation"

    Suggest Following @UnderCoverTweep whose profile description is "Middle manager in a public sector organisation. Tweets & opinions are my own not that of my employer. Retweets are not endorsements. #LoveMyJob #SaveProbation"