Monthly Archives: July 2016

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Michael Foot Memorial (guest blog by Matt Foot)

Editor’s Intro:-

Michael Foot was born in Plymouth, Devon, and a Lord Mayor of Plymouth. He served as Labour MP for Plymouth Devonport from 1945-1955, and was Labour Party Leader 1980-1983.

A memorial, funded by public subscription and fundraising, was unveiled in Plymouth in August 2015.

The memorial was defaced with nazi graffiti in July 2016, following the Brexit vote.  A response to the graffiti  in chalk was later added by a local artist, quoting Michael Foot. Both original graffiti and response were removed by the local Council.

The blog below ( published 15/07) is a response by Michael Foot’s great-nephew, solicitor Matt Foot. A version was later reprinted (with permission) by the Plymouth Evening Herald here.

GUEST BLOG BY MATT FOOT 

We are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier’ 

My first thought when I saw that my Great Uncle Michael’s Memorial had been daubed with fascist graffiti was for Michael’s niece Alison Highet. She was the driving force to ensure the Memorial came to being, only to see it abused with a swastika. 

When Thatcher died the state (us that is) paid £3.2 million for her funeral, but no money was proffered for Michael. Fittingly, a campaign obtained funding for this Memorial in Freedom Fields opposite the house where he was born. It recognises Michael alongside his unique contribution to his beloved Plymouth, whose constituents he served, and then supported all his life, including becoming an honorary member of its football team at the age of 90. 

It is a special place for our family to remember him.

The response to the racist graffiti has been tremendous, with widespread disdain in the community, press and social media. Especially so the contribution of a local artist who used chalk to draw one of Michael’s famous quotes in front of the memorial,

“We are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose – Michael Foot, 1983.”

Thank you to the sympathiser who sent me the marvellous poem ‘V’ by Tony Harrison, written after he found his parents gravestone defaced. Michael would have approved – he never missed an opportunity to inspire others to read literature and poetry. 

The Memorial also celebrates Michael the peace activist, and no doubt in the week of the Chilcot Inquiry, he would be insisting we reread Tony Harrison’s “A Cold Calling” written in 1991 during the First Gulf war but which would make a fitting forward to the Inquiry:-

I saw the charred Iraqi lean towards me from bomb-blasted screen, 

his windscreen wiper like a pen ready to write down thoughts for men,

his windscreen wiper like a quill he’s reaching for to make his will. 

I saw the charred Iraqi lean like someone made of Plasticine

as though he’d stopped to ask the way and this is what I heard him say: 

“Don’t be afraid I’ve picked on you for this exclusive interview.

Isn’t it your sort of poet’s task to find words for this frightening mask? 

If that gadget that you’ve got records words from such scorched vocal cords,

press RECORD before some dog devours me mid-monologue.” 

So I held the shaking microphone closer to the crumbling bone:

“I read the news of three wise men who left their sperm in nitrogen, 

three foes of ours, three wise Marines with sample flasks and magazines,

three wise soldiers from Seattle who banked their sperm before the battle.

 

Below: Visiting Michael Memorial Freedom Fields Plymouth, summer of 2015.


 

Notes

 Matt Foot is a solicitor with Birnberg Peirce in London.
Both author Matt Foot, and blog editor Greg Foxsmith, are also fans of Plymouth Argyle (as was Michael Foot)

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LCCSA Summer Party -President’s Speech

Welcome guests to LCCSA Summer Party!



Background:-

Last November, at our AGM, many members were still tied up in litigation after the award of contracts in LAA’s botched two- tier contracting exercise.

That contracting, initiated by Grayling, followed an unsuccessful JR by the Association in 2015 against the whole tendering process, which despite generous contributions by members, depleted our resources as we had to fund that action.

Counsel’s fees alone were in excess of £100k, and our action, including those fees, brought this Association to our knees financially. The committee and membership were also physically and mentally exhausted, after several years of desperate campaigning against Legal Aid cuts. 

So when I agreed, at short notice, to take up the Presidency I did wonder whether we would survive.

Would solicitors, demoralised and involved in litigation, renew their memberships? 

Well you did rejoin, our membership is solid, we remain a dynamic accountable representative body -I thank you.

And our AGM dinner sold out, and was the best-attended ever. 

And then, in January this year, Gove abandoned two-tier!

And now, tonight, the Summer Party!

Sold out, because you are here, solicitors, counsel, members, friends.

Not on our knees, but standing shoulder to shoulder.

Tonight we are here to party, but we are also ready for battles ahead, with whoever takes over as Lord Chancellor, ready to deal with whatever new idiocies are inflicted soon us by the MOJ, and take on the Courts with their increasing managerialism.

So Thank you all for coming tonight, and your ongoing support for this Association.

We did ask the Public Law set,  whose Counsel earned well over £100k in that unsuccessful JR, whether they would as a gesture sponsor this event. They would not.

Thankfully therefore, our friends at Doughty St chambers stepped up and have sponsored tonight’s party. Their generous sponsorship means we keep the costs down, and have more drinks available. I thank them   

This event is not run at a profit, and I took the decision to dispense with the tradition of inviting Judges as paid-for guests. Of course, there is nothing to stop members inviting Judges as guests, or in years to come Judges buying their own tickets to attend, and I hope they will do so. Instead this year I chose to subsidise tickets for trainee solicitors or paralegals, and I am delighted to see some younger members of the profession here tonight, albeit slightly concerned about their ability to drink…..

You guys are the future, please join the Association and ensure it survives to serve your futures

I thought I would invite the Big Firms Group tonight, so I looked to their website to get contact details, but they do not have one. They have, so far as I can tell, neither website, constitution or elected officers. But they continue to have a seat at the table in talks with the MOJ. and are recognised by the Law Society as a practitioner group. This has got to stop. We have now way of knowing how many solicitors this group represents, although clearly it is representing the owners of those firms rather than the employees.

This association alone aims to represent the interests of all criminal solicitors in London:-

 Owners, managers, partners, salaried staff, big firms and small firms, legal aid or private. 

Of course we sometimes have competing or even conflicting interests, but we try to resolve these fairly, and we recognise we have more in common than those issues that divide us, we have re-learned the important adage that United we Stand, Divided we Fall.

Traditionally, this event was a black-tie dinner, with a top-table and speeches.

I  invited two special guests to this event to my “virtual” top table.

Firstly, the SoS for Justice,  the Right Honourable Michael GOVE MP.
Gove ended two tier, and reversed many other Grayling policies including the Criminal Courts Charge. He spent his first six months on prison reform, and the remaining time campaigning successfully for Brexit and unsuccessfully to be PM. As a result, he has largely left us alone, and I thank him for it.

Michael Gove has many failings

But manifestly less than Grayling’s 

He is, I regret to say, not here.
So, instead of Michael GOVE, I introduce to you… Michael GLOVE (introduces the Gove/glove  puppet)


And when you think about it, Gove is a bit like a right-handed glove- all fingers and thumbs, limp and floppy, and useless on it’s own…

My second invited guest is a good friend of Gove, Gary Bell QC

I thought it would be helpful for him to be here not just for us but for him.

As you all know, he has appointed himself chair of an advisory panel on the justice system, terms of reference unknown, and with his friends as members. He is also by his own admission sometimes ‘used as a bit of a conduit by the Criminal Bar Association’. I thought he may want to hear our views, I know you would want to share them.

He, I regret to say, is not here either.

I understand he holds strong views about solicitor advocates, who he says are :-

insufficiently qualified” and ‘not up to the job’, and firms that employ them are “venal”  (see here for full quotes)

I was hoping we could take the opportunity to put Gary straight on some of those views. 

But he has not replied, so instead I have Gary “Alarm- Bell”

And when you think about it, any lawyer making such pejorative comments. tick-tocking  away with ill-informed remarks about HCAs would be a bit of a clock, albeit without the second consonant.

And so I don’t have MGMP or GBQC here in person as actual entities, and I can present them to you tonight only as non-entities on my virtual top-table, and I stand between them, the Gove-end, and the other end.

A few thank you’s

To PSP (the firm with most attendees here tonight!)

To KN (continuing help and support for the Association including use of room for committee members)

To HJA (providing our regular training venue) 

To Sara, (our administrator) and my fantastic committee (a special mention to Rhona Friedman at Bindmans!)

To Stuart Wild and Nigel Edwards, from Save UK Justice, who have yravelled from outside London to be here!

To 25 BR who are here in numbers, and are sponsoring our Autumn conference in Ghent (along with 5SAH)

And To Doughty St for support tonight

On which note I would like to introduce and welcome from DS:- FFQC

Francis is currently vice chair of CBA, and soon assumes the helm. 

I wish him well, and I look forward to us working together.

So, two things – firstly a toast:  “the Association”

And secondly a warm welcome to FFQC and a show of appreciation to DS chambers!