The fact that a serial failure like Chris Grayling still has an important cabinet position is indicative of the absolute dearth of talent in the Tory party.
Grayling started off as one of Iain Duncan Smith’s henchmen at the DWP, the then spent three years as the worst Secretary of State for Justice imaginable.
Despite his almost unbreakable tolerance for abject incompetence from his ministers* David Cameron finally saw sense in 2015 and moved Grayling into largely ceremonial roles where he had little ability to wreak havoc over ordinary people’s lives.
After David Cameron’s EU gamble backfired so spectacularly Theresa May gave Grayling a lifeline back into a position where he could cause more damage by making him Transport Secretary.
Since then he has bee pursuing policies like handing the Southwestern franchise to the Chinese government to operate (because Tory ideology prohibits the UK state from running UK transport networks, but is fine with the Chinese state running UK transport networks!), deciding to hand operation of the UK taxpayer funded HS2 line directly to foreign governments to profiteer from (France, China and Italy are the bidders), and sneakily cancelling several rail electrification upgrades in Wales and the north of England just days before parliament went off on summer break.
Here’s a recap of 12 things that make Chris Grayling not only the worst Justice Secretary ever, but possibly even the worst government minister in David Cameron’s dreadful coalition of failure with the Lib-Dems.
Since 2007 the role of Secretary of State for Justice has included the job of Lord Chancellor. Before David Cameron appointed Chris Grayling to the position, every single Lord Chancellor for centuries had been a qualified legal professional.
Grayling was the first head of the legal system to have no legal qualifications whatever, and this Tory anti-expertise trend has continued after his departure in 2015.
Grayling’s successor Michael Gove was the 2nd unqualified Lord Chancellor in modern history, Gove’s successor Liz Truss was the 3rd, and her successor David Liddington is the 4th legally unqualified Lord Chancellor in succession.
It’s taken four years and an epic battle all the way up to the Supreme Court to get Chris Grayling’s discriminatory anti-worker employment tribunal fees declared unlawful (thanks to Unison for fighting to protect workers’ rights).
Despite their claims to the contrary this legislation was always intended as a bad bosses’ charter to give terrible employers the freedom to abuse their low-income workers and sack them at will, safe in the knowledge they wouldn’t be able to afford the employment tribunal fees.
Not only did these fees act as a deliberate Tory barrier to the justice system for low-income workers, they also demonstrably discriminated against women. It’s telling that instead of quitly backtracking on this depraved policy of pricing people out of seeking justice Theresa May carried on fighting tooth and nail to keep these sexist Tory rules in place long after Grayling was gone.
Probation service privatisation
Grayling decided that the taxpayer should keep responsibility for probation services for long-term prisoners while probation services for prisoners sentenced to a year or less were carved up and distributed to 21 different private outsourcing companies.
A 2016 report found that ex-prisoners are being failed and the public put at risk. Of the 86 released prisoners the research team investigated not a single one of them had any help in relation to training, education or employment. A third were released with nowhere to live, and one registered sex offender simply disappeared after release.
Legal aid cuts
Legal Aid is a fundamental part of the modern welfare system which prevents the justice system from being just a plaything of the rich by providing adequate legal representation to people from poor and ordinary backgrounds.
Grayling is a fanatical right-winger so he attacked legal aid funding with glee, stripping legal aid entitlement from all kinds of cases. The result was a predictable rise in the percentage of people attempting to represent themselves in court, meaning thousands upon thousands of wasted hours in court (especially family courts) as proceedings had to be abandoned due to procedural cockups from self-representing legal novices.
Aside from the costs and the wasted time, there’s also the fact that unknown thousands have been denied justice altogether as they simply gave up on the idea of seeking legal redress for the injustices they’ve suffered for lack of legal representation.
Restrictions on legal aid for domestic violence victims
If a woman couldn’t prove that they’d been subjected to domestic abuse with either medical evidence or legal records from the previous five years they wouldn’t get legal aid. This attack on domestic violence victims was widely condemned at the time, and in February 2017 it was finally reversed when the government caved into the pressure to accept evidence from charities, solicitors and housing officers.
Aside from cutting legal aid to the bone another of Chris Grayling’s brainwaves was to introduce tendering for legal aid services, so that people needing legal aid would have no longer have freedom to chose their own lawyer (from a local company, or from a firm of legal specialists in the field required) and simply be handed one from a pre-approved government list.
This planned shakeup was designed to benefit big legal companies and drive small independent legal practices out of business. One of the big players in this get-what-you’re given strategy was, believe it or not, the haulage company Eddie Stobart!
Thankfully Grayling’s successor Michael Gove listened to the absolute chorus of condemnation from the legal profession and scrapped Grayling’s madcap plans.
One of Grayling’s most widely condemned schemes was the establishment of a shady commercial offshoot of the Justice Department called Justice Solutions International which won a £5.9 million contract to advise the brutal Islamist tyrants in Saudi Arabia how to run their prisons.
In October 2015 Jeremy Corbyn forced one of his first significant U-turns out of the Tory government by calling for the contract with the Saudi tyrants to be scrapped, which Grayling’s successor Michael Gove eventually did due citing “human rights concerns”.
Criminal court fees
In 2015 Chris Grayling introduced fees for defendants found guilty at a magistrates court to pay £150 and those convicted at crown court to hand over £1,200.
People complained that the fees were incentivising innocent people to plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit out of fear of being hit with Grayling’s fees if they tried to plead their innocence.
Over 100 magistrates resigned over the charges. Grayling’s successor Michael Gove scrapped the charges saying the “intent has fallen short”.
Cutting legal aid for prisoners
In my view you don’t have to be a tree-huggling liberal leftie to believe that a prisoner who has been denied any kind of education, offender behaviour programmes or training while locked up should have the right to seek legal intervention to ensure they do get the help they need to avoid re-offending in the future.
Another of Grayling’s attacks on the prison population was his ruling banning them from receiving books. This one really hit the headlines because there’s nothing quite as right-wing authoritarian as banning books.
In December 2014 a High Court ruling found that banning prisoners from receiving books was unlawful, and Grayling’s successor Michael Gove sensibly decided not to bother appealing against the judgement and binned the policy.
Unlawful prison absconder policy
One of Grayling’s most ridiculous blunders came when he decided to introduce a knee-jerk policy after the right-wing press whipped up a huge fuss when an armed robber called Michael “Skullcracker” Wheatley went on the run from day release.
Grayling’s new policy was to rush through a ban on any prisoner who had absconded from serving in open prison. The problem was that this new policy glaringly contradicted a previous Grayling policy that inmates serving indeterminate sentences should go through a phased release from closed to open prisons “in order to test their readiness for release into the community”.
In 2015 Grayling’s knee-jerk prisoner absconder policy was declared unlawful at the High Court after a case was brought by a prisoner called John Gilbert who technically absconded from day release because he missed his last train, but handed himself into a police station first thing in the morning.
The judges said the inconsistency between Grayling’s new absconder policy and his long-standing directions to the parole board was “irrational”, and they were also “not impressed” by Grayling’s absurd claim that since the ban and the parole board directions had both been issued by him, he had the power to ignore or contradict either of them at will!
Making Michael Gove look good
The fact that a bumbling right-wing fanatic like Michael Gove had to come in and clear up so many of Grayling’s messes just goes to show how utterly crap he must have been.
Just imagine how ideologically extreme and incompetent a person would have to be in order to end up making a right-wing fruit loop like Michael Gove look level-headed and competent in comparison!