YOU ARE at the Socialist Worker pub quiz:
Quizmaster: Name the two most successful industrial disputes in 2004?
Answer: The Sheffield bus workers’ dispute and the RMT pensions dispute.
Quizmaster: Wrong. The correct answer is the Queen’s Council barristers (QCs) and the judges.
Little has been heard of the rock solid industrial dispute of those poverty-stricken barristers who, between April and July this year, refused to represent defendants in particular cases because it was suggested that they take a little less for their efforts.
Barristers piled into mass meetings at the Old Bailey. Angry speeches were made, a committee formed and a unanimous resolution passed. The dispute was solid.
Not a case in the disputed category of cases was taken on. Defendants queued up for trial and it looked as if many might have to be released from prison. The government caved in.
Figures for 2003 show legal aid paid £606,000 to Lord Brennan QC at the top end and £277,000 to Eleanor Hamilton QC at the bottom end. Many QCs earn substantial further sums from private work, taking earnings to over £1 million.
The judges, mostly former barristers, went into dispute against a proposal to tax an individual pension fund in excess of £1.5 million!
They met in secret and let it be known that there would be mass resignations unless they were exempt. So just how much do these workers earn?
The judges’ threat worked a treat. New legislation will exempt them from the tax.
Back on Reality Street, I am defending a single mother who has been in receipt of state benefits. She has worked one hour a day, term time only, as a school dinner lady without declaring the few pounds she earned.
She is charged with fraud. No doubt she will find herself before a judge who really knows a thing or two about state benefits.
The Defender is Socialist Worker’s regular columnist on legal issues.