Sigh, why do I bother

A link to a LIB Dem Activist on Liberal Democrat Voice attacks Legal Aid Cuts. Link here, text below

Why so quiet Livejournal- whether or not you're a Lib Dem, don't you find it disgusting that the MP's are backing this with hardly a murmur?

"Lib Dem Voice last week featured a brief post on the Coalition’s plans for legal aid reform. But this is an important
change that’s been passed with barely a murmur from any Lib Dem MPs, when in fact it strikes at a principle at the heart of the party – civil

The bill in which this change is contained, the Legal Aid, Sentencingand Punishment of Offenders Bill, is currently making its way through the House of Commons. For something that will have fairly drastic effects on many people’s access to justice there has been relatively little talk about it, so I thought it was worth having a slightly closerlook at the proposals and why it should concern Lib Dems.

The Ministry of Justice claims that the British legal system is “the most expensive in the world”. The cuts are an effort to reduce the annual legal aid bill of £2.1 billionand will fall in particular on cases involving immigration, employment, debt, welfare benefit, divorce, and welfare benefits among others.

Unsurprisingly, these cuts have been met with significant opposition from many lawyers and civil liberties campaigners. Liberty saysthat the changes will “ensure that court doors in England and Wales are effectively locked to anyone other than criminal defendants and thesuper-rich”.

The lawyers agree, arguing that “its proposals will be a hammer blow to some of the most vulnerable people in our society”.On top of that, the chairman-elect of the Bar Council has criticised the reforms as being potentially damaging to UK business and even threatening to undermine the rule of law.Regardless of the financial implications of the cuts, and, at £2.1billion, many might argue the current legal aid system provides valuefor money, what is at threat here is a principle of UK justice: equalaccess for all to free and independent legal advice.

This principle was introduced in the 1984 Police and CriminalEvidence Act (known colloquially at PACE amongst legal aid lawyers) inresponse to several high profile miscarriages of justice in the 1970s,such as the Guildford Four.

Some Liberal Democrat MPs such as Tom Brake, are speaking out against the changes; the worry is that they are currently slipping through relatively unnoticed when instead this should be something of a totemic issue for the party. Let’s hope Liberal Democrat peers in the

Lords are listening.

* Alex Paul is a Lib Dem member and student activist, originallyfrom West London but now living and studying in Edinburgh. He sits on
Liberal Youth Scotland’s executive and studies international relations in his spare time.


Lib Dem conference questions Legal Aid Cuts Pt 2

Yep, yet again the conference condemned Legal Aid cuts, and the leadership dismissed the views of its members.  Lord McNally, Lib Dem promoting the Coalition Legal Aid Bill in the Lords appeared not to realise that cuts in social welfare advice would disproportionately  affect the disabled (thus showing an apparent lack of awareness of the impact assessment produced by his own government).

Other random legal aid facts that should have you Lib Dems out there champing at the bit and foaming at the mouth:

1 50,000 people will lose legal aid in London (of which 10% will come from Hackney). 10,000 Liverpudlians will lose out. These are not hubs of compensation culture, or whatever widget Ken Clarke is spouting on about. These are poor communities hanging on by their fingernails who deserve a level playing field.

2 The definition of domestic violence and the rules on funding will be so defined that one Liverpool firm estimated 5 out of 278 cases it had dealt with would qualify. That'll teach those domestic violence victims!

3 Free duty solicitor service at police stations will be abollished. This was brought in as part of the reforms in the Police and Criminal Evicence Act 1984, itself a response to police abuses (Guildford 4, Birmingham 6 anyone?). Sure, there may be a means tested replacement- but who remembers to bring evidence of benefit entitlement and payslips when they are arrested in their pyjamas?

The list goes on.

My question- why aren't you Lib Dems out there (particularly those who are also lawyers and could help lead an informed debate) making a lot more noise?

More doggerel

We have some stamps, for this our thanks

We walked along the river banks for charity

You raised a grand for us, we're grateful, see


Consider the poor volunteer, unpaid, unloved

And over here, h/she gives sweat and love and grief,

To take a statement, write a brief, learn on the job, and then

They have no cash for lunch, poor them.


A bowl of soup, a healthy snack, how much would a fiver set you back?

Listeners be of good cheer, buy lunch for a volunteer.




Doggerel. I know.

The Stamp Walk

Bella tells us the stamps have all gone
And it's true, all our office supplies
Have vanished like mist in the morn,
On small things our good work relies.
We have notes to take but no pens
Our staplers are battered, our copiers trashed
We have letters to write but no tapes
And a terrible shortage of cash
Friends we come hats in hand to you all
We beg you to have no misgiving
On Monday we walk for free legal advice
Please visit Virgin money giving


Could Clark Kent ever become the US president?

A media storm (oh how I love them) is troubling Fox over issue 900 of Superman, which features the man of steel flying to Tehran to protect peaceful protesters against the tanks of President Ahmedinajad, then returns home to inform the authorities that the is renouncing his US citizenship, because he does not wish to be seen as an instrument of American foreign policy.

Needless to say many of my countrymen are incensed by such clear evidence of a communist takeover of the lamestream media. Said one "The liberal, America hating scumbags who now run DC Comics are just adding another feather in their cap with yet more anti-American culture and tradition jihad. F--k 'em," wrote one commenter. "This is why I don't go to movies or even rent anymore. I'm not making the left loons of Hollywood any richer to support their campaign of American hate," added another.

A real comic book scholar would know that the DC universe periodically recasts its characters in alternate histories, moreover that in one adventure Ka El fell not on the American prairie but on that of Siberia, and grew up to battle for the mother country against a sick capitalist called Lex Luthor who has gained the supreme office of the land of the free. Thus, the conspiracy could be proved.  But no, they're just not prepared to do their homework.

But really,although my first inclination is not to lend succour to those of my fellow Americans who now spend 24 hours a day watching Fox TV, fondling their rifles and stuffing their necks with freedom fries, I am afraid that there is something more sinister afoot.  I don't want to go all birther, but I do have to ask, does Superman have a US citizenship to renounce? The evidence is not encouraging.

1 He is an illegal alien, having arrived secretly by spaceship. Although in times gone by the US was built by successive waves of imigrants, a feeling has arisen in places like Arizona that enough is enough. Witness the defeat of legislation proposing to confer US citizenship on children of illegal immigrants from places like Mexico if they carried out a tour of duty in the armed forces or obtained a college degree. It seems that neither heroic sacrifice for the security of the nation nor improving the wisdom and economic potential of your country is sufficient. It seems difficult to justify an exception for the man of steel.

2 He was informally adopted by 2 American citizens who, we must presume, had to secure a forged birth certificate. We know this because had the authorities been alerted of the landing of a baby in a space ship Clark Kent would have been big news, and would probably have, been taken into care by social services.  His secret identity would certainly have been blown.  If Clark Kent has managed to acquire a passport  which seems kind of pointless when you can fly to Tehran faster than an ICBM, this will have been obtained by deception and thus is null and void. The implications of social security fraud and unlawful employment by this mild mannered reporter would certainly scupper his run for office.

3 He was not born on American soil. Although like myself a person may gain American citizenship when born abroad if one parent is American, that person may never be President. Another much loved man of steel, Arnold Schwartzenegger, has been governor of California but can never become president as he was born in Austria. Similarly Ka El was born on the planet Krypton. Rules are rules. Although if Clarke were to declare himself a Republican, it is possible that a constitutional amendment could be arranged.

4 He's not even human. Only humans can be US citizens. Are there any US citizens that are cows? No, thought not.

All I can say is Donald Trump eat your heart out. I got to the evidence first.
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London Legal Services Trust charity walk

Hi Folks

Once again it's that time of year.On 16 May the Law Centre is joining the charity walk. 10km along the Thames, passing through St James Park. The walk raises money for free advice services. Suggested donations of £5-10 gratefully received. If you have money and the time, please come. If you have money but no time  please give. If you have time but no money, please come along and fundraise too. If you have neither time nor money, a big shout of support might help my ageing knees.

Lib Dem conference questions Legal Aid Cuts

The long motion which can be found at concluded

I)     Before undertaking any further changes to Legal Aid, commission an independent study on the overall cost to public funds due to the impact on other budgets and other government departments as a consequence of any loss of access to adequate legal advice by those with housing, immigration, employment and education cases. 

II)     Ensure that proper consideration be given for the scope for savings to be made by improvements in Legal Services Commission decision-making and by reducing the costs of appeals by raising the quality of first decisions by public authorities.

III)     Reject any changes to Legal Aid which lead to significant reductions in access to justice, a lack of sustainability of public funded legal services or false economies as a result of knock-on costs to public funds of cuts to legal aid.

So come on you Lib Dems out there- a fairer society is in danger. The average Legal Aid lawyer's salary is £25k. Join Justice for All!

The Big March

Hi folks 

A fantastic march. There's always a bit of a let down afterwards but 250,000-500,000 people walking in the same direction can't all be wrong. Broke the 2,000 visits hurdle so have awarded myself a virtual chamber pot for the distinction. 

Post on the march is at

p-margin-bottom is a bit of a weird title, but I've only posted about 15 times and I haven't worked out how to change that yet.