I write this week from The Burj Al-Charon (as I have re-named my Staterooms for this report), probably the finest location in Battersea Square, but feet from the River Thames, with stunning views over the water to Chelski, owned, largely these days (I am told), by Russian oligarchs and escaping North African dictators and their extended families.
Schadenfreude – the hypocrisy of the traditional academic establishment!
I’ve been involved in public and private sector legal education since 1979. I remember only too well the lofty pronouncements of ‘leading academics’ from what are now called Russell Group universities, being critical of private education, expressing distaste that anyone would have to travel to foreign countries to drum up business. As it happens, along with my then co-directors, my law school was given a Queen’s Award for Exports in 1982 and I spent an amusing and surreal evening at Buckingham Palace drinking Gin and Tonic with HM The Queen for about ten minutes. The Queen was astonishingly well informed, friendly and very easy to talk with, and I then had five minutes with the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who started talking about Roman-Dutch law on hearing that I was there because of our law school. This, I found rather curious given that Thatcher had qualified as a lawyer here under the common law system.
I also had a very surreal conversation with Willie Whitelaw who thought I made ejector seats for aircraft. Younger readers may like to see who he was? He didn’t seem to mind when I told him that I knew nothing about ejector seats. Perhaps he thought it was par for the course for managing directors of Queen’s Award for Export winning companies to know nothing about their products? He kept on saying ‘well done, well done’ to me, laughing and saying he hoped no-one would ever actually need to use my product. I didn’t have the heart to tell him, again, that we trained lawyers. (I am pleased to be able to report that Whitelaw did, eventually, manage to find the arms dealers who were at the Palace to collect their Queen’s Award for selling ejector seats. God knows what he talked to them about.)
But… as Margaret Thatcher is reputed to have said… Everyone needs a Willie
Anyway…I digress. Today, you cannot travel to any country, repressive regime or just mildly corrupt regime like our own (See Bribery Act revisions and guidelines), without falling over academics rushing to get money from seriously rich plutocrats and self made dictators. While I admire Sir Howard Davies, late of The Libya School of Economics, for ‘jumping’ the other morning; the truth of the matter is that most of our universities are up to their arm pits in financial dealings with people who, with hindsight, it may be better they weren’t in bed with. The reason for this is remarkably simple. We don’t (a) value education enough in this country to fund it through the tax payer entirely or (b) we are no longer a serious world power, a major world economy and we have, simply, not got the money to go it alone – so why not do as the rest of the world does and buy a long spoon and sup with the devil? We can, at least, afford to design fund and manufacture a long spoon?
Despots and academia: more scandals ‘likely’
And talking of despots and scandals….. I have written about Bradley Manning before and Wikileaks (and there may be no connection) and while I can’t fact check this report, Manning’s lawyer has reported in similar vein before. This is rather disturbing… from the land of the free: Bradley Manning’s forced nudity to occur daily
Could you defend yourself in court?
In the wake of the BBC programme Silk and the Ministry of Justice’s best endeavours to minimise the inconvenient process of proper legal representation before imprisoning criminals (or not actually bothering to) by cutting legal aid – the BBC asks…….if you could defend yourself in court? You may well have to if you can’t pay the lawyers. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, is most exercised by this and has already pointed out that this could actually cost our country more because it will slow the whole process down and put even more pressure on judges who will, in effect, have to help litigants in person – who often haven’t a clue what they are doing, despite watching Silk, Rumpole et al. (and if they watch Silk… they could be in even bigger trouble on evidential and procedural issues – let alone cocaine use and nicking wigs from robe suppliers in Chancery Lane?).
The President’s Speech
It is very good…..
Even though it is the weekend and I am exercising my rights under The European Convention to have free movement in bars and my right to drink as much as I wish… I did find this article from The Guardian of interest…..
Judges’ pensions: a matter of constitutional principle?
The Guardian: Judges pay nothing towards their comfortable retirement, as cost-cutting ministers are aware. But would change compromise their independence?
Foreign SecretaryWilliam Vague, The Duke of Edinburgh and HBH The Duke of Pork on a recent trip to The Gulf
On Russell Group universities… THINK £9000 p.a. ++ – they’ll all be in on the act soon… even, gawd help us… those not in the elite group of universities like Exeter last week :-
University playing down links to Gaddafi regime
It has emerged that the university’s vice-chancellor Steve Smith met Gaddafi in 2003 in a bid to set up a £75m deal which would see British universities educate the next generation of Libya’s academics.
It also saw the two shake hands on a deal to set up the Exeter Centre for English in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
But the university has insisted that no money ever changed hands and plans for the centre were never followed up.
Taking the piss?
Well… I think it best to leave it there for this week… I shall write soon.
Best, as ever