Like everyone else, I have received notice of a special general meeting to debate a ‘no confidence’ motion in respect of our president and chief executive. Just a week ago, prime movers on one side of the debate (including James Parry) had an interesting experience. They were able to meet with Chris Grayling, put their points and hear what he had to say. One of them had a lengthy exchange, but ‘Chatham House’ prevents me from saying who said what. Suffice it to say, in that exchange Grayling’s footwork and reach seemed to me the more effective. Not a glove was laid on him, though I did see blood on the canvas.
That leads me to wonder what or whom will replace Hudson and Fluck, should the motion be carried? Given the main thrust of the argument: ‘You agreed what you did and you didn’t ask me’, coupled with the staggering naivety of the request to publish notes of meetings with the MoJ, it is a worrying prospect.
I do not like all of Grayling’s proposals and I was not asked either. But, as a solicitor practising criminal law for over 40 years, I have to say, despite some shortcomings, Chancery Lane’s response to recent consultations has been more effective than I have seen in the past. It may not be calling for strikes, it may be wrong in its assertion (with which I agree) that engagement is better than manning the barricades and screaming defiance. But a little thought shows an exhortation to strike is not within its capability.
The Society is not a trade union and, as any decent lawyer will confirm, cannot act like one. That was the position when BVT was avoided. There was no call to arms. Rather, there was discreet action in the corridors of power and activity in the political domain of MoJ. Believe me, I was there.
Put aside what was or was not ‘agreed’. Any agreement simply is not binding on individual members (in the event that the motion is carried, thankfully so). Had they ‘asked’ Mr Parry, we would all have been asked. We all oppose cuts, but some see that a cut, of some sort at some time, is inevitable. Some ‘death or glory’ people would prefer total disengagement. By what majority would any view be judged to prevail?
At present, we have a team which has achieved a lot, including abandonment of PCT and retention of client choice. Sure, there is more to be done, but as those present at the Grayling meeting learned, not everything is written in stone. Some changes are being considered. Those changes will not happen if Chancery Lane disengages and simply screams ‘no cuts’. They will not happen if Grayling thinks his every discussion is to be broadcast for public interrogation. They will not happen if he has to start afresh, negotiating with unknown quantities.
Throughout, we have all understood that Chancery Lane’s stated objective is to represent the best interests of the whole profession. That was to be achieved by saving jobs, not firms. No sane person expects every firm to be saved. Perhaps mine will perish. It is a risk imposed on us all, and not by Chancery Lane.
A sobering thought: had there been no engagement, we would all now be hunched over spreadsheets, working out how to survive the Armageddon of PCT. As it stands, anyone with a client following has the opportunity to choose whether to carry on, even if it is not an easy choice.
In the headlong rush to see heads roll, let us pause and think about the alternatives. Let us just think about blood dripping from the block, and what then, Mr Parry, what then?
Mike Mackey, BurtonCopeland, Manchester