Lawyers demonstrate against planned cuts to the legal help price range in London on 7 March 2014. ‘[Simon Jenkins] peddles the nonsense that the price of legal aid charges 20 occasions Europe’s typical, ignoring the several comparable reports that have discovered fees to be average,’ writes Matt Foot. Photograph: Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty
What a thoroughly reactionary write-up by Simon Jenkins (From militant physicians to angry lawyers, professionals are the new union barons,19 November), supporting government attacks on junior physicians and legal help lawyers. He peddles the nonsense that the cost of legal aid is 20 times Europe’s average, ignoring the numerous comparable reports that have located costs to be typical. His quaint middle-class notion that representation can basically be resolved by us looking for mediation ignores the function of some legal help lawyers in supporting campaigns that exposed terrible police practices in situations such as Hillsborough or Stephen Lawrence.
His idea that absolutely everyone ought to be denied both a solicitor and a barrister would lead directly to masses of miscarriages of justices, exactly where the police and prosecution would have representation denied to everyone else. It would also lead to a lack of accountability. The last time I was at court was at an inquest for a household of a man who had died in a G4S prison. The prison had skilfully managed to tell the wrong family their son had died. This did not stop them getting 4 representatives at the inquest – but it also did not quit the jury criticising their practices. Decent representation could not be important for the likes of Simon Jenkins, but the majority of society cannot afford to be without having it.
Co-founder, Justice Alliance
• Simon Jenkins hits the nail on the head once more. As a senior civil servant at the end of the 70s, I turn out to be the lead negotiator with the BMA on the pay and circumstances of hospital medical doctors. My mother-in-law’s reaction was to wag her finger and tell me I need to “look right after them due to the fact they look following me”. It soon became clear that the BMA were, and stay, a formidable negotiating force, and significantly of this force comes from the assistance they have from the public. This, in turn, implies that politicians have never ever been prepared to face down the health-related profession and its restrictive practices at least because Nye Bevan found he had to “stuff their mouths with gold” to get them to cooperate with the new NHS in 1948.
One of the concerns we tackled or, far more accurately, failed to tackle, in the late 70s was adjustments in junior doctors’ contracts. The consultants argued that patient security created it required to have a lengthy tail of junior doctors at perform or on call 24 hours a day. I compared this with the cover offered in private hospitals, exactly where many consultants a lot more than doubled their salaries. There, no junior medical cover existed, consultants popped in to execute operations or prescribe remedy and popped out once again, there was no access to patient records and no intensive care facilities if items went wrong. This is still, basically, the position right now. Despite these glaring variations we didn’t handle to get medical cover in NHS hospitals on to a a lot more expense-powerful footing, largely due to the fact ministers caved in. The current dispute with junior medical doctors is rather diverse, but the power of the BMA remains.
Bishops Castle, Shropshire
• On web page 37, Simon Jenkins informs us that the curbing of trade union energy has made the British economy “more versatile and far more efficient”. On page 28, an Institute for Fiscal Studies report points up some of the gross inequalities in British society, with the best 1% of households obtaining net wealth of far more than £2.4m and the poorest 1% with unfavorable net wealth of more than £16,000.
Perhaps Jenkins’ subsequent write-up could investigate the links in between declining trade union energy and increasing social inequality, since impeccably mainstream organisations such as the Globe Bank seem convinced that such links exist. He could also care to supply us his definitions of flexibility and efficiency, as well.
Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire
• As 1 person’s restrictive practice is another’s livelihood, the dismantling of trade union restrictive practices more than the final 35 years can scarcely be observed as an unalloyed “good thing”, pace Simon Jenkins. Indeed, a significant impact of the reduction of trade union power has been the really sharp reduction in the share of national earnings going to wages and the consequential development of inequality in this country, with its zero-hours contracts, state subsidies to employers and landlords, and exploitation of inexpensive migrant labour.
As for the professions, the dilemma is not so a lot with restrictive practices as with restricted access, as government increasingly seeks to shift energy away from the professions and to monetise all relationships. It is this question of energy in the market place that Simon, surprisingly, fails to recognise. Unfettered markets are the problem, not the resolution. The professions represent independent sources of energy in our society, which is one particular explanation that they are beneath such swingeing attack from the neoliberals with their dogmatic assertion of the energy of the “market” more than all else. Cui Bono, Simon?
• Simon Jenkins condescendingly asserts that British universities are “wasting half the student year whilst teachers ‘do research’ or take holidays”. Does he believe that the publishable investigation essential from academics happens in a time-cost-free dimension? His jibe shows no appreciation of the vast quantity of work behind the studies that fortify so many of his articles or culminate in the technologies and health-related therapies from which so numerous of us advantage.
Professor of neuroscience, King’s College London
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