‘First you've got to get mad!’ The words of Peter Finch's character in '70s film The Network.

Judging by the stunning attendance at yesterday's Save Legal Aid demo outside the Ministry of Justice – to coincide with the end of the MoJ consultation on price-competitive tendering – you already are.

Mad isn't enough though. You'll probably sense or know that by now - you're clever.

You may also have spotted that although calls for solidarity from the socialist lawyers group, the Haldane Society, got applause, a general strike is not in the offing, and the society has no parliamentary party or MPs.

Proper protest that presses the buttons of hard power has been late coming to this issue. In fact, its arrival can't even be heard if you put your ears to non-electric tracks of public discourse.

Don't blame your professional bodies for that - I don't want to live in a country where the bar association decides the government of the day. But you have options.

If as an individual you are mad about what’s poised to happen to criminal justice, here's what to do - and believe me you don't have much time.

Step 1: go online and print off a list of the 60 most marginal parliamentary seats in the country going by 2010's results (and any seat that includes a Cabinet member in the top 120).

Step 2: work out which you are nearest.

Step 3: from the website of their local paper, or any other source, work out what's making people cross in the constituency.

Step 4: make contact with groups who are cross about those issues. Say you'll go online, deliver leaflets, knock on doors - anything to promote this cause that threatens to make the local MP unpopular.

Step 5: having started doing this (definitely including leaflets, as physical evidence looks good - hell, donate to these causes too), let the MP and their local party know why you were moved to make common cause. That too has to happen quite quickly.

Step 6: make all your engagement on this emotive issue very, very emotive. Carry on doing it.

All this may sound a bit bare-knuckled - and obvious (strangely, though obvious, it is not being done). But after covering debates on legal aid, and having spent 20 years in a party that's one half of this coalition - the half that was once good at winning by-elections - I can tell you this.

If you value what's left of legal aid - because it supports the kind of society you believe in, then it's time to recognise that the time for nice chats with ex-lawyers in the Commons and Lords is over. Those chats didn't do it. The campaign supremos and election agents didn't notice.

As poet Adrian Mitchell wrote, ‘sorry bout that’. I think the government's mind is made up on this one.

Getting mad was a start. But the arithmetic is currently firmly against legal aid's supporters, who have already lost so much. If the heat is felt in those 60-120 seats, that may change.

Otherwise, goodbye access to justice. You have precious little time to change that outcome.

Eduardo Reyes is Gazette features editor

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