Tag Archives: michael gove

On The Law

The law was the one closed shop Mrs Thatcher failed to break. Blame the sheer number of lawyers in Parliament with a vested interest, though I suspect today the average MP is more likely to be a former policy wonk. Not an improvement.

Now my former colleague Michael Gove, who these days is justice secretary, will have a go. He says the law is the preserve of the rich but fails the poor, and that it must become more efficient.

Fair point, the first. Rich oligarchs and corrupt businessmen from the developing world flood to London to settle their disputes in our courts, though given how much they pay to do so, this might better be seen as a lucrative invisible export.

And while on the rich, Gove might have a look at the miscarriage of justice which has seen celebrities dragged through the courts for long-forgotten misdeeds, cleared and still hit with huge legal fees. In the millions. Ditto some journalists. I cannot understand how that can be seen to be fair. It’s a huge, disguised fine levied on the innocent.

Having, as I have written, just done jury service, it is pretty obvious to me that the criminal justice system is as riddled with systematic waste as the NHS, and for very much the same reason. It’s not their money. The procedures that operate in both would not be countenanced in a private company, though that sort of time-wasting and foot-dragging was prevalent enough there forty odd years ago when I joined the workforce.

Sit in the jury box, and you are often met with the bizarre sight of a judge typing away on a laptop while prosecuting and defending counsel rummage through piles of paper. Almost nothing is computerised. There are endless delays as key people fail to turn up. Bits of evidence are repeated over and over again, or are supplied in written form, only to be tortuously read out verbatim in court as well.

Several of my fellow jurors, quite independently, speculated how much of this waste and delay was down to lawyers being paid by the hour. And the hours? Ten to one, a break for lunch, two to four, or before this if convenient.

And don’t even consider the idiocy of men dressed in costumes more appropriate to the 17th century. What message does the wearing of wigs send to the 21st century juror? It does not, trust me, engender respect.

Over to you, Michael.


Middle Class Vested Interests

I worked with Michael Gove for some years and can confirm that he is a genuinely decent man, a politician who came into politics to make life better for his fellow citizens. Brought up in fairly modest circumstances, he gained a scholarship to go to a good school and his prime motivation is to ensure that as many pupils as possible today get the best possible education.

My teenage daughter went to 6th form college, where it is fair to assume she absorbed the demonisation of Gove by the staff there and others of the educational establishment, that amorphous mass of naysayers and foot-draggers that he himself calls The Blob. She genuinely seems to think he has a personal animosity towards the young, all of them. Teenagers are prone to silly ideas.

Gove is up against that constant of the advantaged professional classes the Middle Class Vested Interest. The same is true of those who have tried to reform the NHS or other parts of the health establishment.

They have an inbuilt advantage, these MCVIs. They are articulate, and present well on the Today Programme, where half a dozen of them – that soft-voiced Scotsman who used to speak for the BMA, the woman from the NUT – have become fixtures, on speed-dial on the producers’ mobiles.

What they have in common, aside from that voice of sweet reasonableness, is the determination that the people they represent do not want change, that the practices enshrined in their professional codes of conduct must never be amended and that those privileges their members enjoy are not to be eroded in any way. No matter that it might be to the benefit of the people they are pledged to teach, or treat, or serve. And that the money is always there, somewhere, to support the status quo.

They are no different from any other  knuckle-dragging trade unionist, but that articulacy and voice of sweet reason is very difficult to combat, as Gove has found out. The one vested interest that Mrs Thatcher never dared take on was the law, although some of the lawyers’ privileges are now being eroded by market forces and the arrival of competition from outside the profession.

And which profession is disproportionately represented in Parliament? Indeed. Funny, that.

(Disclaimer – my daughter, who designed this website, is actually incredibly intelligent and I’m lucky to have her around. Her opinions are her own, as mine are.)