Maybe the new justice secretary is about to have an expensive re-education. I admit that on his record he is not an obvious ‘rule of law’ groupie. On past form, he thinks it’s fine to shoot robbers in the back when they are running away. He was famously a bit of a fan of some bed & breakfasts staying homosexual-free.
At the Department for Work and Pensions, the ministry he now leaves, he deployed the rather cryptic logic that Parkinsons sufferers who had benefits removed ‘go to appeal’ in large numbers ‘because they have the opportunity to do so’.
And in July he complained to civil servants at the Ministry of Justice that an MoJ video showing people how to appeal against benefits decisions that had gone against them was too informative. But there is hope. Like an obese yet opinionated football fan, it is much easier to hold ridiculous notions about how to get on and do stuff from a safe distance.
So here’s the hope. That long hours spent locked away with officials who say things like, ‘but minister, that’s not what the European Court of Human Rights judgment said,’ might help. Responsibility for reoffending rates may make him wonder why prison doesn’t work very well (‘we have to find a better way,’ he might mutter to his permanent secretary).
He might even notice that the City’s largest law firms, each of them exporters and advisers to the sort of right-thinking big business the average capitalist doesn’t mind, support and understand gay rights and the anti-discrimination laws that underpin them. Maybe he’ll get cornered by a commercial litigator who tells him unrepresented claimants cost their clients more than represented ones – or a pro bono fan from a big corporate firm who thinks the legal aid cuts were a bit rubbish.
He might visit a CAB and see the queue – hell Grayling might even win a court case (perhaps even in Europe), in which case it’ll be hug-a-judge time.
So I’m optimistic – this is a journey that really might broaden a mind.
Eduardo Reyes is Gazette features editor
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