Returning readers to this recently created blog will know that I have two major hobby horses right now, firstly the ridiculous refusal of the Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg to hop off the fence on which he sits, and explain what he means when he describes "the party with the strongest mandate" as having the first right to seek to rule.
You can refresh yourself by clicking HERE
Or listen again to my interviews with Tom Brake from the Lib Dems last Wednesday HERE - and the main man, Nick Clegg on Friday by clicking HERE
My second hobby horse is the strange decision by all main party leaders, in effect to assume the guilt of the three FORMER Labour MP's accused of fiddling their expenses. All three leaders have branded their legal aid grants as "totally wrong" and "unacceptable". The basis for their sweeping comments is that they are ACCUSED of taking taxpayer's money, so why should they get more taxpayer's money to defend themselves. Perhaps I am taking rather an old fashioned view, but I was kind of waiting for the Courts to decide their guilt or otherwise.
It's not a question of defending dodgy MP's - You can read my reasoning HERE
Anyway, there is a point to all this... I am genuinely pleased to see that my colleagues in TV and the printed press, namely Sky News and the Financial Times taking on both issues, and look forward to keeping up the pressure myself.
Yesterday afternoon, after the Conservative Party's manifesto launch, I interviewed Baroness Warsi, Shadow Communities and Cohesion Minister.
After a few minutes, I think I might have accidentally mentioned legal aid. Here is a word for word transcript of that section of the interview (recorded at aprox. 12:45pm yesterday afternoon).
SW = Baroness Warsi
SD = Sean Dilley
SD - David Cameron, your leader, said yesterday that he would stop MP's accused of fiddling their expenses from getting legal aid in the way that other citizens, that other Subjects of the Crown would. Now clearly the law should be applied without fear or favour, and everyone should be equal before the eyes of the law. Do you think that MP's should have the same right as everybody else in the UK? Do you think that people should have the right to a fair trial and a proper defence, or do you think MP's should be stopped from receiving legal aid in those circumstances?
SW - I think if you go out and speak to any of your listeners and say to them that people who have taken taxpayer's money, or are accused of taking taxpayer's money in the way that they should not have done, are now getting further taxpayer's money to defend themselves, I think the general reaction would be how can that be, that doesn't sound right. But there is a review...
SD - Well any libertarian would have a problem with that though on the basis that they're not guilty until a Court finds them guilty, so innocent people, surely should have precisely the same right as other innocent people. When they're found guilty, there's already a mechanism in place to repay money gained from the legal aid board as it were.
SW - And that's why we've got a system in place which Dominic Grieve has spoken about, a review where we need to look at how clearly these cases are financed. Absolutely everybody deserves access to justice, and finance in itself should not be a reason why people are denied justice, but I think that the case that we're talking about here specifically is really a continuation of the way that, as I said in my speech today, that the public feel very angry, and were quite furious actually about the fact that this has gone on so long, and this seems to be....
SD But we can't pre-judge these cases, and we should stress that because we would be breaking rules ourselves if we were to.
SW - Of course we can't, of course we would. Absolutely, and I would absolutely say that, and I said that, these are allegations that these people face, but I think it's all about the fact that people generally, your listeners will feel that you can't have allegations of people who are accused of taking taxpayer's money that they should not have, and then pay further taxpayer's money for them to defend themselves.
SD - But what if they're innocent? What if they're innocent?
SW - It would be wrong for me to carry on commenting on this case. I think we've probably gone as far as we have (that's not a typo, this is what she said).
SD OK, but in principle, you do think that we shouldn't presume guilt?
SW - Absolutely
*** ENDS ***
Your views please?
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