Speaking of ex-ministers, former MP Rory Stewart, who served as prison minister in 2018-19, has voiced some forthright views on HMCTS’s reform programme.
In The Rest is Politics podcast, which Stewart hosts with former Labour communications director Alastair ‘dodgy dossier’ Campbell, Stewart spoke of the ‘ludicrous optimism’ behind the reforms. ‘You can imagine the kind of mindset that governments get in, that somebody thinks “if only we can get everybody video-linked, we won’t have to move, we won’t need all these courts and technology can fix it” and then that gets combined with swingeing cuts.’
The result? ‘This horrible backlog of cases.’
Court closures betray Tory principles, Stewart maintained. ‘The one thing that we as Conservatives should have been getting behind is trying to defend our courts and our justice system. We should have been much slower, much more cautious with these reforms. These are real radical libertarian 25% cut reforms which is foolish but also un-Conservative.’
So will reviving the justice system form the centrepiece of Old Etonian Stewart’s reported ambition to become the new Third Force in politics? If so, Obiter can only wish him well.