David Renton

In defence of lefty lawyers

(Getty images)

What have the Conservatives got against left-wing lawyers like me? Boris Johnson told the Commons recently that the government was ‘protect[ing] veterans from vexatious litigation pursued by lefty lawyers‘. It was far from the first time lawyers had been targeted. 

The Home Office’s most senior civil servant conceded last summer that officials should not have used the phrase ‘activist lawyers’ in a video blaming them for disrupting the asylum system. But it seemed that the Home Secretary didn’t get the message. 

A few weeks later, Priti Patel claimed that ‘removals (of illegal migrants) continue to be frustrated by activist lawyers’. At the Conservatives’ virtual party conference, Patel then vowed to stop ‘endless legal claims’ from people who are refused asylum, accusing ‘traffickers’ and ‘lefty lawyers’ of ‘defending the indefensible’.

So impressed was the Prime Minister that he, too, joined in the verbal attacks on ‘lefty human rights lawyers‘, telling delegates that the criminal justice system was being ‘hamstrung’ by them.

The message went down well. As a result of Priti Patel’s tweet, the Home Office video was watched half a million times. But while lawyers make a soft and popular target, the Tories should tone down their targeting of lawyers: it is poisonous to our political discourse, conceals the reality of immigration, and has put lawyers – who are just trying to do their job – in the firing line.

I’ve held my clients’ hands as they lost their homes, and cried with relief when they saved them

While you won’t hear it from the government, here is the truth about the immigration debate in Britain. Our country takes a very small portion of the world’s asylum seekers. There were 26 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2019. In the year ending March 2020, the UK granted 20,000 people asylum, humanitarian protection or alternative forms of leave. This was less than Germany, Spain, or Greece.

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