Twice, the Justice Secretary said his brief was to bring “common sense” back into the Justice system. Dominic Raab may, in parliamentary language, be “a doughty champion” and “stalwart defender” and “passionate campaigner” for this rare quality, but it’s also true that anything with “common sense” in the title – party or campaign – is doomed. Guido has tried to explain this to John Hayes, chair of the Tory Common Sense Group but it didn’t go in.
Common sense isn’t enough at this point in what we used to call “our sad national decline”. The Justice system, the Oppositions said, is broken. This might be truer than they know.
Cases taking three years to come to trial. Rape reports very high, rape charges very low, rape convictions barely existing. A shortage of 1,000 judges. Are there strikes threatened? Almost certainly. Are there illiterate criminals on early release committing terrible crimes? Of course. Are the police brow-beaten, demoralised and confused? Beyond question. But are they at the same time misogynistic, racist and idiotic and, more often than is strictly desirable, with criminal records? It’s undeniable.
On the positive side, we have the “single case management system”. The new computer system quoted at £236 million is only £100 million over budget which in the history of public procurement counts as under budget. Of course, it doesn’t work, but that is to miss the point.
The Opposition want to blame this on the Government, on Tories – but they’ll find themselves dealing with the same intractable problems in due course.
In the face of these realities, that the Justice secretary has been accused of being “curt” with civil servants becomes a distraction, an irrelevance, a symptom of some incurable malaise.
This isn’t a sketch, just a post-it note on a disintegrating brick in the crumbling structures of the public services. For catastrophists and chaoticians, though, it’s Christmas every day.