As I am running to be a representative of Labour in Loughborough and Parliament, I thought you may like to hear the sorts of things I am getting up to.
Was dinner with the Law Society President Joe Egan in my capacity as a member of our local Law Society’s Council. In his initial remarks he mentioned the work of Lord Bach and the Fabian Society in their important Access to Justice Report. I had been fortunate to attend the launch of that document at this year’s Labour Conference. It is well thought through and comprehensive: it rightly calls for reinstatement of legal aid across a range of areas, a legal right to legal assistance, and its proposal for a Justice Commission to act as watchdog and advocate on matters of access to justice would be a very positive step. As a high street lawyer from Bolton, Joe Egan was very aware of the issues that need addressing and receptive to the proposals.
There was also an exchange with Joe about the Law Society as an advocate for access to justice and the profession. It is fair to say that both the Law Society and the Bar Council are still in transition from regulators to representative bodies. Brilliant work is done by both (not least the Bar Council’s Brexit Papers), but neither seems to have transformed into household names (as visible and powerful as say Digby Jones once was at the CBI or Len McClusky is at Unite) that can persistently campaign for access to justice and the right to a lawyer.
Took me to Thompsons Solicitors in Sheffield. I spent the day up there working on their personal injury matters, some for trade union members. I really enjoy my visits there. The receptionists are always so nice to me, and I always get a kick out of the wall decoration. Plates from local miners’ unions (pictured here) got special attention this time.
I was lucky enough to spend some time with Labour members in Loughborough, some planned and some serendipitous.
Firstly, I heard worrying concerns about the Glenfield Children’s Heart Unit which is under threat, and the fairness of Universal Credit, which contrary to its advertised intention is not incentivising people to go back to work (see this from Paul Lewis on an 83% marginal loss to some).
Then later I took myself along to the “Eco-Social” which brought together environmentally thinking people in Loughborough. I heard a lot about Transition Loughborough, and really got a sense of a community of very able, idealistic people that were not just talking about environmental and sustainability, but were living it. I was really inspired. I used to work on climate change policy and drive an electric car. If selected I would love to get immersed in the work of this community. I happened upon a number of Labour members there too. Making me think that the party where it currently is, is very well placed to push for a rapid shift towards better air quality, and more sustainable cities, towns and villages. It’s an area that I think needs a big focus before the next general election.
Won my trial in Wandsworth. As an illustration of how the Bar works, I was against a colleague from my Chambers. We are based in Nottingham, but are probably the leading chambers in the area of industrial disease, so bumping into each other at far flung courts is normal. My client had been deafened by his employer, a well-known national butchers, whilst working on band-saws and the like cutting meat. I was glad that we got a result for him.
Sadly the trial ran late meaning I was not able to get to my Coop Party branch meeting.
A fantastic day doing the rounds in Loughborough. After a Cino’s Cappucino with a hard-working member/activist talking campaigning, my day took me all over the constituency.
It was great to learn about the work of the Loughborough Town of Sanctuary. Volunteers stand outside the Home Officer Immigration Reporting Centre which serves much of the East Midlands. They provide details of where advice can be obtained, and were offering hats, scarves and vouchers for hot drinks and food. It was obvious that these offerings and simply their presence, warmth and humanity were incredibly well received by those having to report at the centre.
We walked with one asylum seeker to John Storer House, itself a brilliant community asset. I had a fascinating conversation over my poached eggs on toast in the community café, with the person in charge of the organisation. Her passion and professionalism was admirable. It was great to learn about the funding model, and how this has had to adapt to changes such as budget holding. Hearing about their work using gardening with disadvantaged groups brought back memories of how much my dad enjoyed his involvement in a couple of such initiatives when he was in the early stages of dementia.
Later on, I was interested to learn about the Loughborough Generator project which is seeking to build a creative community to support start-ups and companies from across the creative sector. All really exciting stuff.
This was all rounded out by a helpful discussion with Dan from the Loughborough Labour Students on some campaigning ideas, a fascinating talk at Loughborough Labour’s Unity House with Lilian Greenwood about women in politics and her political story (including her gruelling Selection Campaign experience!), and then a Refugee Forum event back in my village (raised around £900!).
A professional development session on ethics at Grays Inn. It says something about my profession that you can dedicate three hours of training to discussing ethical questions and scenarios.
I feel lucky to be a member of a profession that takes this sort of thing seriously. Balancing your duty to the Court and your client is really the essence of what being a barrister is all about.
We are really lucky that the Inns of Court are largely left to get on with this sort of stuff, and that barristers are largely trusted to uphold the standards required to further the rule of law. I would really like the same empowerment to be given across all professions and areas of work. Particularly in health and education. Government reforms have too often alienated and not empowered professionals and employees.
Family time and promoting our CLP’s 2017 December Draw on Facebook.