Friday, May 14, 2010

That Was A Week, That Was

I have followed politics most of my life , and I have been addicted to newspapers since I was at university, so you can imagine what a fascinating few weeks I have had over the election period, as the old rule book disintegrated, its pages borne away on the wind of a new political reality. This last week has seen the birth of a coalition government that reflects, in a funny way, the slightly ambivalent verdict of the electorate. To a small-L liberal, and an enthusiast for the freedom that came from being born English there have been some encouraging signs that the new administration may be about to make a start on sweeping away some of the thoroughly bad and authoritarian legacy of the old government. We are promised a great Repeal Bill, and about time too. Irony piles upon irony; the Conservative slogan was 'change'; the new Conservative Justice Secretary is sounder on liberty than his Labour predecessor. Of course there are grumps and cynics on both sides, unable to consider the possibility that the old yah-boo politics might just become more collegiate in future. Was I the only person to be depressed by the sour negativity of so much of last night's Question Time?
The Press has had a bad election too, and was badly wrong-footed by the early Lib-Dem surge. The indignant fury of the Mail and the Express and the Telegraph was seen through by most thoughtful people for what it was - a despairing attempt to do something - anything - to slap down the upstarts.
The justice system has many problems to face, and financial stringency won't make the solutions any simpler, but I hope that the new people in office have a good hard think about where we are going. We have a record number of police officers, booking a record amount of overtime, spending a record amount of money on equipment, but on the streets and the highways the police are more or less absent, apart from the Dad's Army of PCSOs. Legal Aid must be sorted out so that the most vulnerable can receive proper advice. Time and again magistrates see uneducated and inarticulate and occasionally mentally disturbed defendants who clutter up the system and waste days of court time, when a half-hour of a lawyer's time could set them straight.
We all expect painful changes, driven by the lack of money, but I hope, with at least a little confidence, that justice will be the priority, and that social engineering and grandstanding will disappear.

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