Monday, 26 January 2015

The Tuesday Truth

Not the Global Law Summit – A Festival for Justice
Here’s a conundrum. 

Q: When is an anniversary celebration not an anniversary celebration?

A: When it’s the Global Law Summit .It’s billed as a celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta but any connection with the Magna Carta ends there. Indeed the Prime Minister himself introduces the Summit as “yet more evidence that Britain continues to lead the way in promoting free enterprise, economic growth, and the Rule of Law around the world”.  The only possible explanation for thinking this guff has anything to do with the Magna Carta must be drink.

The first clue for that is they got the wrong date.  The three day Summit starts on 23rd February some four months ahead of the actual 800th anniversary. Only the most churlish would point out the real anniversary falls after the general election.

I have scoured the Magna Carta and nowhere can I find anything that strikes any chord with the Global Law Summit. Nowhere does it say in the charter that after nearly 800 years thou shalt organise the following:

  • As many of the richest Queens Counsel and business people as can be found to gather together in the City of Westminster to venerate and celebrate liquidity, leverage and free enterprise.
  • Chargeth £1750 per ticket for the privilege of ye olde worlde networking as truly the Summit doth provide a “valuable opportunity to meet and do business”. When thou does find that few men ( they are nearly all men ) want to forketh out such a princely sum , cut ticket price in unseemly panic and do mass ring round of legal community 
  • Assemble the top business monopolies including the Chairman of BAE systems who haveth such a proud record of building armoured fighting vehicles, combat aircraft and nuclear submarines to ensureth military personnel are ready for deployment, and understandeth first hand the effects of the rule of law having as recently as 2010 had to pay more than a Kings Ransom in fines for corrupt behaviour.
  • If that shalt not be enough inviteth a Managing Director of Goldman Sachs and a Company Secretary of Vodafone to marketh this Great Charter
  • Do not inviteth a single legal aid solicitor to speaketh as they be the scum of the earth and also they hath not even the reduced princely sum required to payeth the entrance fee.

In fact the real Magna Carta does not have that many remaining clauses, only three, of continued relevance including the most renowned which has a slightly different aspiration than the Summit -

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right to justice”.

One reason why the actual wording of the actual Magna Carta is not recorded at all in the celebration of the Magna Carta’s glossy brochure maybe that these words jar somewhat with what this government has been up to over the last five years. Access to justice has been decimated by the LASPO ‘reforms’ providing comfort to the Rackman landlord and bullying employer with legal aid all but removed for employment tribunals and halved for housing cases.

The Magna Carta was the foundational document of civil liberties and a vital defence  against the despot, King John (who had a penchant for taking his people into useless failing wars abroad). Today we have our own despot against justice, the inappropriately named Minister of Justice, who is picking on the most vulnerable in society, intent on decimating further basic rights of judicial review, and seeking the closure of 1000 criminal firms by ill thought out, rushed cuts, following ill thought out rushed privatisation of probation and court services. Everyone knows that miscarriages and injustice will become widespread. Many of us predicted the chaos that would ensue once the MOJ contracted for cut price interpreting and foresaw the nosedive in the quality of forensic  science evidence once the market was opened up to cut price experts. 

The only way to respond to the absurdity that is the Global Law Summit is to organise Not the Global Law Summit events. The Justice Alliance (formed out of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association) links together those who work within the justice system and those who use legal aid, charities alongside unions, grass roots campaigns and professional organisations. We are going to Runnymede on Saturday 21st February in order to deliver the Magna Carta from there  in a relay to the summit, from whence it was signed. Silly hats are probably compulsory; the infamous King John Grayling puppet is keen to attend. We shall assemble nearby the Summit at Old Palace Yard opposite Parliament on Monday 23rd February at 1pm. All lawyers, probation officers, civil servants, civil libertarians, protestors, and anyone who can’t afford the entrance fee to the Global Law Summit should come together in one mass non summit. From there a delegation will deliver the Magna Carta to the summit in the hope that someone actually reads it.

The Not the Global Summit Festivities will continue in the evening with a Stand up for Legal Aid, justice just got funny night at the Union Chapel ( , where the words free enterprise are banned, it may not be funnier than the real Summit but a ticket is less than 1% of the cost.

by Matt Foot with historical  inaccuracy guaranteed by Rhona Friedman



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