Social justice campaigners draw Simon Hughes’s attention to the fact that his government is devastating legal aid budget
There are few greater pleasures in life than watching a politician lock ‘n’ load, take aim and then squarely shoot himself in the foot.
Keen followers of that sport were hugely cheered over the last 24 hours when justice minister Simon Hughes demonstrated a superbly executed example of the art form.
Hughes, the minister of state for justice and human rights, took to social media yesterday evening to celebrate the run-up to the Global Law Summit, which his boss, the Lord Chancellor, has ordered his minions to organise by way of celebrating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta.
The Liberal-Democrat MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark in London must have hoped to do a spot of traditional arse lickin’ by making the guvnor happy with a tweet illustrating just how Magna Carta-aware he is.
…#MagnaCarta@UKParliament: 'To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.' My ambition & inspiration always.
— Simon Hughes (@SimonHughesMP) February 5, 2015
In the end, Hughes has, according to the Twitterati, simply come over as a pompous and disingenuous prig. His tweet — which expresses Hughes’s life-affirming devotion to core elements of the MC — is hollow at best, claim commentators.
@HillyFoz was fairly typical in her reply.
@SimonHughesMP WHAT?! How do have the barefaced cheek to say that. You are decimating our legal system you LIAR.
— Hilly (@HillyFoz) February 5, 2015
@Noneoftheabove also put the boot in with a rather relevant question.
— NoneOfTheAbove (@NOfTAbove) February 5, 2015
The problem for Hughes — who read law at Cambridge before being called to the bar at Inner Temple in 1974 — is that many see him as little more than Chris Grayling’s whipping boy. He provides a veneer of liberal respectability to a ministry and government hell bent on slashing the legal aid budget and binning the Human Rights Act.
Moreover, the Global Law Summit is routinely pilloried for being an over-priced back-slapping event, which the Tory-dominated Ministry of Justice has organised as a pre-election international photo-opportunity for its side of the coalition government in the run-up to the May general election.
And it was probably with those thoughts in mind that family law barrister Leisha Bond tweeted the advice to Hughes that he bear in mind Mark Twain’s comment:
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
Or as criminal law solicitor Oliver Kirk put it less obliquely to Hughes:
“What have you done to legal aid?! Cut it for the most vulnerable. You are a hypocrite.”
Then there was this Barbara Hewson-style comment from @ACommonLawyer:
“In the immortal words of the Dalai Lama — ooo fuck you, you utter cunt.”
To be fair, Hughes has a reputation among many in south London as being a solid constituency MP, retaining a strong interest in local issues. However, he took the seat in a 1983 by-election amid considerable controversy.
Hughes — in those days a pure Liberal — stood against a Labour Party candidate in the form of the then young gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
Tatchell was subjected to a barrage of homophobic abuse during the campaign, which the Gay News described as “the dirtiest and most notorious by-election in British political history”.
There is no evidence that Hughes — who subsequently revealed his own homosexuality — was himself involved in the homophobic slurs, but Liberal Party activists on the doorsteps were very much in the line of fire in relation to the allegations.
Now Hughes is caught up in another maelstrom of grief having yet again irritated social justice campaigners. Yet another politician who should be advised to steer clear of Twitter?