Sunday, 16 January 2011

Lobbying MP's

Went to Parliament on the 12th to support J-4-A's campaign launch. The plan was to invite your local MP to come and visit about the loss of civil legal aid for 500,000 people. That's slashing the number who can get this advice by 50%.

The House of Commons is a wonderful victorian gothic building that looks part cathedral, and part wedding cake. It seems timeless, and yet it looks like its melting. If you walk past the policemen who are careful to ensure that everyone has an umbrella (which is rather sweet), and walk through the metal detectors, you will arrive in a lovely gallery, with paintings and statues.

300 lawyers and clients came to the meeting. 6 MP's and 1 Baroness spoke common sense (as well they might). Sadiq Khan spoke for legal protection of vulnerable people, and Andrew Slaughter told me that the legal aid cuts could mean that tens of thousands of people will lose funding for their tribunal cases.

My organisation's 2 MP's were too busy to meet us, and I met my local Streatham MP fleetingly, but his researcher came and spoke to us.

A number of clients spoke movingly of their experiences, including a mother and her little girl who had found themselves homeless and were helped to find somewhere else to live by Shelter.

At least 1 government MP, including the member from Westminster came to speak with his constituents. And when asked the question why are you cutting LA, said “I know you give a lot of good practical advice, but why do you need to have lawyers?”

Well, let me see, perhaps because of the hundreds and hundreds of Acts of Parliament, statutory instruments, European directives, International Treaties, Codes of Guidance, Ministerial Letters, Local and National policy documents which define the everyday social and economic rights of your constituents? Not to mention thousands upon thousands of cases in the Lower and Upper Tribunals, County Courts, the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court, and the European Court of Human Rights?

It seems that we have a lot of work to do. We must persuade legislators that we're not all just tea and sympathy. Although why anyone should begrudge a sympathetic service with the odd cup of tea is beyond me.


  1. I also was thinking many times about this more than strange question of that MP - why do we (me, my family, members of our community, UK-citizens and visitirs) need to have lawyers to assist our sometimes very complicated cases? And every time my answer was extremely obvious and simple - because our Law-makers made Law very complicated and besides of that we still want to be Law obidient citizens, don't we? And now I wonder - why it is not so obvious for our Law-makers then? Isn't it ignorant arrogance and disrespect to us all, UK-citizens, visitors and to our legal assistants? And again - answer is more than obvious, isn't it?

  2. The levels of ignorance amongst backbench MP's, particularly Tories, of what the realities of everyday life are is utterly staggering.

    The fact that many add stupidity and bigotry to their ignorance makes it as worrying and depressing as it is staggering.