By Richard Littlejohn
5th April 2011
This column doesn’t often quote Shakespeare, but a line from one of the Bard’s lesser works has kept coming back to me over the years. In Henry VI (Part 2), Act 4, Dick the Butcher tells his fellow rebels: ‘First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.’
There’s been much debate as to whether this is a back-handed compliment to the legal profession, since the rule of law is seen as a barrier to bloody revolution.
Whatever Shakespeare’s intention, the quotation is reported to have been greeted with cheers and laughter by the audience when it was first performed. Lawyers were no more popular then than they are now.
Pompous: The Supreme Court and its rulings are just part of the problem and the case for putting all lawyers to the sword appears to be compelling
In the second decade of the 21st century, the case for putting lawyers to the sword seems compelling.
I’m not talking about the trusted family solicitor who guides us through estate planning and dabbles in a little light conveyancing; or those poorly rewarded briefs who toil in pursuit of justice in Uxbridge magistrates’ court; nor blessed libel practitioners, who have kept this column out of the dock for more than two decades.
The problem is the burgeoning legions of ‘yuman rites’ parasites, judicial activists and tribunal advocates.
Some of us can’t help reaching for our scabbards every time we see the smug visage of Michael Mansfield QC or read the latest pronouncement from the absurdly pompous judges of our shiny new Supreme Court.
There are times when I’d be happy to see the streets running with the blood of those spiv lawyers behind those adverts on daytime TV, which promise the gullible and greedy a fortune in ‘comp-en-say-shun’ for the most trivial injury.
The adage ‘accidents will happen’ has been replaced by a modern creed of ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’. Just call Blame Direct and it’s trebles all round.
No-win, no-fee outfits have created the false impression that there’s no cost involved in spinning the wheel in the compensation casino.
The truth is that we all pay for these chancers, through extortionate insurance premiums and higher prices for goods and services, levied to meet the crippling cost of litigation.
Whatever Ken Clarke’s other failings, his decision to scrap no-win, no-fee arrangements is the best piece of news to come out of the Coalition.
But it only scratches the surface of the tyranny of the modern legal system. Laws were originally designed to protect us. Increasingly, they are employed to oppress and exploit the paying public.
New Labour was a party of lawyers, by lawyers, for lawyers. Incorporating the European Human Rights Act into British law was the most ruinous, pernicious action ever undertaken by any government.
In addition, we have been subjected to an avalanche of unnecessary legislation, most of it originating in Brussels, which has restrained our freedom and granted inalienable ‘rights’ to criminals and terrorists.
We CAN all name our most infuriating examples, from jailbirds granted the ‘right’ to heroin and pornography in prison, to bloodthirsty foreign preachers of hate given the ‘right’ to live freely on benefits in our country at the expense of those innocent taxpayers they want to kill.
Britain’s bill for legal aid is the highest in the world. On top of that, small businesses upon which our economic recovery depends are subjected to a tsunami of unwanted, costly rules and regulations. No area of human activity or endeavour is immune from legal interference.
So it is not surprising to learn this week that Britain boasts more lawyers than police officers. According to the latest figures from the Law Society, the number of qualified solicitors and barristers stands at 165,000 — in contrast to just 142,363 police.
That’s an increase of more than 42 per cent between 2000 and 2010, when Labour’s legislation mill was working full tilt. The number of lawyers hired by local government over that period shot up by an astonishing 70 per cent.
Unlike police officers, only one in ten of whom is on front-line duty at any given time, the massed regiments of the legal profession seem to be on parade 24/7.
When they’re not litigating, some of them are engaged in a never-ending search for more work, drumming up lawsuits where none should exist.
It’s not just their ‘get-rich-quick’ come-ons to the victims of minor workplace mishaps. Lawyers and their agents can also be found hanging around hospital accident and emergency departments handing out business cards.
As well as more than 165,000 qualified lawyers, we also have to contend with a vast standing army of quasi-judicial officials hired to enforce the new laws.
Whenever any piece of legislation from Brussels arrives on our shores, it isn’t just rubber-stamped, it is gold-plated with pages of ‘guidelines’ that must be implemented to the letter and rigidly underwritten with the threat of criminal prosecution for non-compliance.
Ultimately, the blame lies with the parliamentarians who nod through these laws.
But there’s also the growing peril of judges who think it is their job to make the law, not just apply it, in a multitude of areas ranging from privacy to illegal immigration.
Deliberately perverse interpretation of European law has allowed unelected judges to turn on its head the concept of human rights, and earned a fortune for the Wicked Witch and her mates at Matrix Chambers.
When it comes to lawyers, Shakespeare called it right.
Those of you who don’t follow football may have missed Wayne Rooney’s foul-mouthed ‘celebration’ of his hat-trick against West Ham.
He ran over to the TV camera behind the goal and screamed a splenetic fusillade of four-letter abuse.
Face contorted in hatred, he looked just like those lynch-mob skinheads with Maori-style tattoos who laid siege to Swindon magistrates last week.
Foul mouthed: Rooney lets rip with a string of four-lettered abuse after he completed his hat-trick against West Ham on Saturday
All this was beamed live into millions of homes around the world, for which Sky immediately apologised.
If Rooney had acted like this in the street on a Saturday lunchtime he would have been arrested and probably jailed for violent behaviour. At the very least, he’d have been handed an Asbo.
Yesterday he was given a derisory two-match ban. An exemplary ten-match suspension and a huge fine, which would relieve him of a hefty chunk of his £250,000-a-week earnings, would have been preferable.
I can’t be bothered to psychoanalyse Rooney, although anyone who bungs room service £200 for a packet of cigarettes, while cavorting with a brace of low-rent prostitutes in a high-profile, five-star hotel, clearly needs his head examining.
But what is disturbing is that Rooney’s rage seems to typify a trend in contemporary Britain. Half the country appears to be in a permanent state of extreme anger, with a hair-trigger readiness to explode instantly in the face of any assumed slight or lack of ‘respect’.
It may be expressed in a drive-by V-sign, a mouthful of invective or, in extremis, an assault with a deadly weapon.
You can find it, too, on the internet where socially and sexually inadequate cowards filter the frustrations of their own empty lives into expletive-laden death threats against anyone who says something of which they disapprove.
However pig-thick and disgusting, Wayne Rooney is simply a grotesque manifestation of a much wider modern malaise.
Ann Widdecombe complains that despite her experience she has been overlooked for elevation to the House of Lords.
‘I’d always thought I was a natural candidate because I’d been in Parliament for 23 years. I’ve held a string of ministerial offices.
‘I’ve been the Shadow Health Secretary and the Shadow Home Secretary. But, obviously, in Cameron’s eyes, I wasn’t.’
Perhaps this is because she was last seen being hurled round a dance floor on prime-time TV, looking like a baby elephant from a Disney movie.
Never mind the Upper House, it’s time to send her off to Longleat.
Mohamed Fayed has erected a 7ft 6in statue of Michael Jackson outside Fulham football ground.
Alan Mullery, I could understand. Tosh Chamberlain, Jimmy Hill, too. But why the certifiably insane, kiddie-fiddler Wacko Jacko?
Craven Cottage might be heralding the start of an exciting new trend. We could soon see statues of deceased Motown stars outside every Premier League stadium.
A life-size bronze figure of the great Levi Stubbs Jnr, late of the Four Tops, would enhance any match-day experience. David Ruffin, from the Temptations, who died of a drugs overdose, might brighten up the approach to Villa Park.
When Spurs finalise their plans for a new stadium, they could top it off with a statue of Marvin Gaye.
What’s going on?
In a letter to the Mail on Sunday, a reader said he turned on the wireless last week only to wonder why the Today programme was interviewing Harold Steptoe.
After a few moments he realised it wasn’t the late Harry H. Corbett, it was Ed Miliband. What a brilliant observation.
Listen to them both and there’s a distinct similarity. Steptoe was a rag-and-bone man from Shepherd’s Bush trying to sound educated.
Mister Ed is a posh boy trying to sound Estuary. Somehow they’ve met in the middle.
We sent my wife’s mum, Joyce, a Fortnum & Mason Mothering Sunday hamper. It was supposed to be packed with goodies such as biscuits, honey and specially selected tea.
So imagine her surprise when out popped a couple of rioters in balaclavas, screaming about the ‘Tory cuts’.