We’ve spent a small fortune in Clarks, sewed on the name badges, and dragged the eldest out of bed this morning for a trial early morning start. Next week the fun begins as the kids go back to school – and next week also marks the return of MPs to parliament.
Try and spare a thought for lord chancellor David Lidington, who has to field justice questions on Tuesday, the very first day back. It’s unlikely he’ll be asked to write a side of A4 on what he did during the summer holidays.
By coincidence, Lidington managed to avoid speaking engagements in parliament before the summer recess, giving him time to get to grips with his brief without the likes of me looking for signs of gaps in his knowledge.
He also took on the post with little fanfare and little of the scrutiny fixated on his predecessor Liz Truss. Indeed, reaction to his appointment appears to have been glowing, presumably because he wasn’t Liz Truss.
We know very little about what kind of justice secretary Lidington intends to be – a reformer in the Gove mould or a bulldozer such as Grayling. His twitter feed – admittedly not an exact science for seeking out a politician’s priorities – is largely concerned with the Baltics, the Bucks County Show and Brexit – with an occasional mention of prison reform and one retweet about a dodgy claims management company. No-one is expecting policy pronouncements from the sun-lounger, but there is precious little steer from the top so far.
As the honeymoon period ends, Lidington will face a series of question, both next week and in the coming months, which should flush out his opinion.
What does his department intend to do now employment tribunal fees have been ruled unlawful? What effect, if any, does this have on other types of fee?
How does he respond to Lord Justice Jackson’s recommendations on fixed costs? Will this involve a call to the Department of Health to ask where it’s hidden its own proposals for clinical negligence fixed fees? Will he plough on with personal injury reform?
Will he really go ahead with the flexible court hours pilot? How is his department keeping tabs on the £1bn project to upgrade our courts? What is the latest on the online court? Speaking of our courts, when can we expect tangible progress on improving the pitiable figures for judicial diversity?
What is happening with the LASPO review and when can we expect an update? The government has promised this will be done by April, but that is looking increasingly fanciful.
None of this is even to mention his biggest challenge: prison reform and cutting inmate numbers (last recorded at more than 86,000).
We can only hope Lidington has enjoyed a restful summer break – the autumn term is likely to be a hard slog.