I have to admit I have never actually attended the St Albans annual Shrove Tuesday pancake race, even though it takes place 10 minutes from where I live. In fact, I don’t think I had even heard of it until it was cited as a classic example of health and safety gone mad because one year contestants were told to walk, not run, because of rain.
I doubt there was much of ‘that lovin’ feeling’ at the Law Society on Valentine’s Day. Despite all its efforts to woo the prime minister and his henchmen from the Ministry of Justice, it was defiantly excluded from the much-publicised whiplash love-in at Downing Street on Tuesday. Only very special chosen ones, all insurers, were invited to gaze misty eyed at ministers as they played footsie under the table and pledged to join together to make their world a lovelier place.
It’s rather a British thing to support the underdog. I’m pretty sure most of us feel a natural affinity for David and get a warm glow when he manages to land one on Goliath. It’s nice to know that when the little guy takes on an injustice done to him he can be sure of a fair hearing thanks to Lady Justice and the principles of magna carta. At least that’s what it used to be like.
This week will be crucial in the fight to save legal aid as the bill slashing its budget and restricting its scope enters its final stage in the House of Commons. Any objective, rational assessment of the provisions in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO) would surely come to the conclusion that this was a disaster on its way to happening. Unfortunately, being objective and rational isn’t a requirement for being in government.
Thinking about it now, it seems extraordinary that I rushed home on 3 October 1995 to see the live verdict of the OJ Simpson trial on TV. Along with over half of the US population and quite a large percentage of the UK one, I watched as he was found not guilty of the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. I had never even heard of him before he was arrested and starred (I use the term deliberately) in what has been described as the trial of the century. It was all so over the top and showbiz it didn’t even occur to me that we should put TV cameras in English courts.
Normally I associate the 1980s with the Thatcher government, the miners’ strike, the Falklands war and alarming fashion decisions. I often forget it was also the decade that saw the end of apartheid in South Africa and the Berlin wall. But watching the Arab Spring spread across the Middle East has reminded me that these international events had as big an influence on me as did events on my own doorstep.
No-one could fail to be moved by the words of Tariq Jahan, the father of one of the three men mown down by a hit and run driver in Birmingham last week. His reaction to his son’s death, killed as he tried to protect his community from rioters, was both poignant and extraordinary. He said he believed people could stay calm and could live together. The police said his words had played a significant part in helping to quell further unrest.