David Cameron spent a lot of time in opposition playing down comparisons between his politics and those of the Thatcher government. When he came into power in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, it seemed their influence might strengthen the government’s credentials on social justice.
Now, a few weeks into the new regime, a junior minister in the Ministry of Justice, Jonathan Djanogly, has confirmed the petty and misguided decision to force Refugee and Migrant Justice into administration by refusing to help it through £1.8m cash crisis caused largely by the ministry’s own delays in paying legal aid fees owed to the charity. The decision comes as we hear that legal aid to senior counsel in the Bloody Sunday inquiry totalled £100m.
Ken Clarke, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has not seen fit to intervene, despite his credentials as a fair and sensible poltician, and there has been no audible protest from the government’s big society advocates, despite their rhetoric about the beneficial role of charities in society. Not a word, either, from the Liberal Democrats.
So what is going on? RMJ is widely acknowledged to have unrivalled knowledge of asylum law and to be cheaper and better that the alternatives. Senior members of the judiciary are understood to have intervened behind the scenes on its behalf. Without RMJ there is likely to be more injustice and suffering for vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers. There is no reasoned case for refusing the help it needs to survive. But all this has fallen on deaf ears.
This sends a crude and simple message: “ We are the masters now, and we don’t care.” We got used to that kind of thing in the Thatcher years. Is this a sign of more to come?