It Takes Two to Tango

The juggernaut rolls on and it’s momentum may well be unstoppable. But before or after strike action, one catchphrase will continue to resonate. Sooner or later, it will be time to talk.

Why not now?

A little very basic analysis.

The history of most industrial disputes is either capitulation or negotiation. It must be exceptionally unlikely that this Lord Chancellor will capitulate and withdraw his proposed cuts altogether. They are part of a Treasury led commitment to economic restraint. You may disagree with the policy, but we are stuck with it until the next election in two years or so.

Nor are the bar and other lawyers minded to collapse. Feelings are running incredibly high and voices of dissent are not popular. A risk I will run again a little later in another blog.

That leaves negotiation or mediation, take your pick.

My friends, get your head round this simple concept: sooner or later, that will happen.

Indeed, as one blogger said recently, we would probably bite the hand off the Lord Chancellor if he were to suggest it.

But say the critics, he is not listening and will not negotiate. Hence what options have we but the nuclear one of interrupting the access of others to justice and in that process of putting our clients at the risk of nonrepresentation. We don’t want to do that, but we feel we have no choice.

I trust I put the argument, which I do not fully share, fairly.

The heart of it then is bringing the Lord Chancellor to the table.

Into that analysis, we need to consider the question of timing.

From the Lord Chancellor’s point of view, he may think the best policy is to keep quiet and await public support as a strike intensifies. I do not however see how he could avoid a public response on the day of action.

Whether that would include exposure to the forensics skills of John Humphrys on the day of action, I cannot predict.

But I can see why he may consider it is best at present to keep his powder dry

If that indeed is his position, I strongly suggest that it is a profound mistake.

The sooner the two parties start talking again to each other the better. It will happen eventually unless you contemplate the nonsense of a complete collapse of the judicial system.

But what about?

I repeat my suggestion that the leaders of the bar draw up a list of urgent topics for immediate reform.

That is going to take some courage, because the mood of some fanatics does not contemplate anything other than the unrealistic total surrender of The Lord Chancellor.

Incidentally some of the same hotheads are ridiculously keen on personal abuse of the Lord Chancellor, which I find totally unprofessional and unnecessary. You don’t win any argument by stupid abuse.

In saying that, I stress that I don’t belong to any political party: I have voted for all three of them in the course of my life!

Then the bar leaders should insist on independent mediation with a highly experienced retired High Court judge who would command universal respect.

For the Lord Chancellor to turn down mediation in the light of the many private representations he has received politically and otherwise would be unwise. I do not think he will continue to turn a blind eye if that is one construction of his present position. I do not think he could afford to take that attitude indefinitely – because sooner or later, if the bar does not prejudice its position by absurd tactics, public opinion would turn against him decisively.

In a word, Lord Chancellor if I may be so bold, do the decent thing and respond constructively. New members to the government may further promote moves to a constructive, fairer settlement. Could this in turn be a real chance to end the threatened chaos?

I will keep my thoughts on further conduct on the Day of Action until another time.

PostScript.

We now have the position of the Judges, the calm language of the DPP and the proper and inevitable guidance of the BSB.

The position of the individual client has to be what matters most, for there our professional responsibility ultimately lies.

Sober warnings in careful language. None of the guidance should be called a threat. Just Imagine how such warnings could have been phrased.

All the more reason to get round the table.

Which is the whole point of this blog.

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