“The first thing we do is let’s kill all the lawyers”

05 Sep

I was reminded of this line from Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part II the other day due to a Radio 4 feature. As soon as I heard it I thought of Mr Grayling. The line is uttered by a character called Dick the Butcher who is part of a popular Kent based rebellion led by a man called Jack Cade. The rebellion was against the unpopular King Henry VI and the taxation he had been forced to impose on common people to finance his war in France.

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I was reminded of this line from Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part II the other day due to a Radio 4 feature. As soon as I heard it I thought of Mr Grayling. The line is uttered by a character called Dick the Butcher who is part of a popular Kent based rebellion led by a man called Jack Cade. The rebellion was against the unpopular King Henry VI and the taxation he had been forced to impose on common people to finance his war in France. At that stage – 1450 – England was in the process of losing most of its territory in France and the Wars of the Roses were just around the corner. Jack Cade led a rebellion of the common people against the King, and his taxes, which moved from Kent and into London causing widespread destruction, looting and violence.

The line is prophetic for our times as we face continuing assault from the politicians who seem to want us (the legal aid contingent) extinct. At first blush the line seems to be anti establishment on the basis that it must be said as an entreaty to destroy those who bolster the unpopular King, his rule and his taxes. However when put into historical context the line has a strange resonance. At the time it was written lawyers were seen very much as defenders of the truth. As being those who pursue honesty and truth in all areas of life. The line is spoken in the context of Cade disclosing the purpose of the rebellion as being an equal measure of justified revolution and an opportunity to loot and enrich the rebels. The rebellion is cast as an all out assault on the rule of a just and legitimate King.

The result is strangely reminiscent of our plight as legal aid lawyers. If truth, justice and honesty need protection the lawyers (so they thought in the days of the great bard) were there to protect those values and ensure they were used for the benefit of society. Without legal aid – whether criminal or family or care – the modern day Jack Cades win out. The lawyers will be all dead – my kind anyhow – and the basis for which we strive will have no protectors, no champions and no defence to both bureaucracy and the faceless justice of the balance sheet.

Dylan Morgan

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