Tag Archives: lefty

Suella Braverman has deliberately endangered a lawyer acting for asylum-seekers

Face of evil? Suella Braverman’s dossier attacking immigration lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie seems to be not only dishonest and illegal, but also racist.

Let’s see if I’ve got this right: the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom has deliberately released a dossier filled with lies in order to get the media to harass an immigration lawyer, thereby putting her in danger. Is that correct?

I refer to a four-page document created by Suella Braverman (or ordered by her), and sent to right wing papers the Telegraph, Mail, Sun and Express.

It contained a series of falsehoods about Jacqueline McKenzie, head of immigration and asylum at the law firm Leigh Day, which she herself described as follows, in an article for The Guardian:

Someone had drawn a diagram linking Keir Starmer to anyone who challenged the Conservatives’ Rwanda plan. There was mention of a case in which I represented a Jamaican man who had lived in the UK from the age of nine and was facing deportation. It said that I was a hired adviser on race to Starmer, when in fact I am an unpaid volunteer on a working group set up by Labour to look at race disparities across a number of indicators, just as the Conservatives did with the Sewell report.

It also “outed” me as a trustee of Detention Action, a well-respected NGO supporting people in immigration detention centres, presumably because the organisation challenged the Rwanda scheme in the courts. The dossier did not mention that I had become a trustee after that challenge. I did represent a man who was one of seven shackled on the tarmac waiting to be flown to Rwanda before the flight was grounded by the courts. I feel no shame: a doctor in the immigration detention centre confirmed that my client displayed signs of being a victim of torture.

A statement in support of Ms McKenzie by her colleagues at Leigh Day points out:

Omitted from the briefing was Jacqueline’s involvement on another group chaired by Priti Patel MP on the Windrush Scandal and the 90% of her work which is focused on legal support for victims of the Windrush Scandal.

Another Guardian report quoted the actual Tory document:

The party’s document, which had the heading, “Revealed: senior Labour advisor is lefty lawyer blocking Rwanda deportations”, sought to highlight McKenzie’s links to the party and her work on immigration cases, she said.

The Tory dossier said: “Just last year, she [McKenzie] helped a Jamaican criminal lodge last-minute appeal to deportation because of his high blood pressure. The foreign-born crook had just served an eight-year prison sentence for kidnapping.

“[Labour leader Keir] Starmer has been keen to distance himself from previous remarks and convince voters that he can be trusted on immigration.

“But his decision to hire lefty lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie is further proof that ‘Sir Softie’ can’t be trusted.”

A spokesperson for the Conservative Party intensified the attack in a comment for the same article, stating:

“It’s no secret that an activist blob of leftwing lawyers, dubious campaign groups and the Labour party are trying to frustrate our efforts to stop the boats and deport more foreign criminals.”

Ms McKenzie has made her opinion on the reasons for the Tory attack on her abundantly clear:

There is no doubt this story was timed to accompany the moving of asylum seekers, many traumatised, on to the Bibby Stockholm. The government attacks vulnerable people and those like myself, who represent them in order to distract from issues that the electorate prioritise: the cost-of-living crisis, the environment and the NHS.

This flagrant attack on me and my work, built on misinformation and mischaracterisation and underpinned by racism and misogyny, is a dark day for our political sphere. It represents a serious slur on the integrity and independence of thousands of hardworking and upstanding lawyers.

I’ve saved the worst for last: The attack on Ms McKenzie has put her in danger, along with those around her:

The hit job on me was vile and self-serving, and put me and those close to me at considerable risk of physical harm. I’m having to take security advice and precautions, such is the seriousness I place on ominous emails I have received.

The Tory dossier was not only full of lies; it deliberately and falsely alleged that Ms McKenzie was politically biased – a claim that has outraged members of the legal profession, not just at Leigh Day but across the UK.

According to the Leigh Day statement,

Lawyers should not be criticised for doing their jobs. People are entitled to have legal representation when faced with removal from the country, or indeed being moved to accommodation which may be unsuitable. Many of the clients represented by Jacqueline’s team have been through trauma, torture or incredible hardship. In a civilised society they should be treated with compassion and understanding as well as having the law applied accurately and fairly to the individual circumstances of their case.

While the work we do as a firm is not always popular we strive to provide access to justice to all whether that is bereaved families who need help finding answers through the inquest process, those who have been seriously injured on our roads, employees who have been discriminated against by their employers and international communities who bear the brunt of multinational corporations wreaking havoc on their local environments. This commitment to access to justice for all extends to those seeking asylum in this country or who need support with their immigration status.

We are proud of the work we do and will not be cowed by a government whose strategy appears to be to attack and demonise lawyers, and the judiciary, merely for working to ensure the laws of this country are upheld.

It is a position that the Law Society, which represents and supports solicitors across England and Wales, and the Bar Council, its counterpart organisation for barristers, fully supports:

Their full statement runs as follows:

“Everyone is entitled to legal representation, and it is a United Nations basic principle that lawyers should not be identified with the causes of their clients as a result of representing them.

“The legal community is gravely concerned by the experience of immigration solicitor Jacqueline McKenzie.

“That is why – as we have said repeatedly – it is wrong to describe lawyers as ‘lefty’ or ‘activist’ simply on the basis of the causes they advocate on behalf of their clients.

“Lawyers who represent their clients are not only doing nothing wrong, they are doing exactly what they are supposed to do in playing their part in ensuring that the rule of law is upheld. Ms McKenzie has been doing exactly what she is supposed to do as an immigration solicitor, acting in the best interests of her clients within the constraints of the law.

“Political leaders know that lawyers represent their clients within the legal framework that parliament creates and CCHQ should seriously reflect on what has happened in this case.

“Language and actions that unfairly undermine confidence in the independence of the legal professions, and potentially risk the safety of lawyers, will ultimately undermine confidence in our entire justice system and the rule of law.”

It seems clear to This Writer that the dossier of lies about Ms McKenzie is part of the “crackdown” on “rogue lawyers” that the Tory government announced earlier this month.

At the time, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk claimed that the aim was to stop a minority of lawyers who were making false claims in order to allow people who should be deported to stay in the UK.

He seemed to be having trouble getting his words out and, if the attack on Ms McKenzie is representative of the Tory plan, this should be unsurprising. It can be hard to present a pack of lies as factual information.

Even then, the Law Society was pointing out the errors in the Tory claims:

So:

The Tories’ claim to be cracking down on a small number of lawyers who are dishonestly and illegally playing the system on behalf of foreigners who should not be in the UK seems to be a cover for an attack on entirely respectable lawyers that is itself dishonest and illegal.

But then, what can we expect from a Home Secretary whose own word cannot be trusted?

One final point that I haven’t mentioned before: Ms McKenzie is black. This Tory “crackdown” on asylum-seekers and those who represent them is not only dishonest and illegal; it is also racist.


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An hour of honesty at the Daily Mail

Image: Crowdwish.

Image: Crowdwish.

Have a good look at the picture above. If you click on it, you should get a larger version.

The sign it depicts was erected on the wall of the Daily Mail offices in London yesterday by an organisation calling itself Crowdwish (@crowdwish – “The most popular wish of the day actioned. Today, tomorrow and forever.”) and the tweet accompanying this picture stated: “For one – very satisfying – hour the sign below adorned The Daily Mail offices this afternoon.”

The blogpost accompanying the picture explained that it was in response to a wish that the media would focus more on the good things that happen in the world.

“The fact is that bad news sells; negative events cause spikes in TV ratings, sales of papers to rise and increases in traffic online,” the article continued – and this is fair comment; Vox Political‘s own highest reader figures have been generated by disasters like the passing of the Gagging Law.

The article explained: “Man’s (and women’s) most primeval survival skill is to stay out of harms way; to be alert to threats or danger, and our brains are therefore hardwired to be highly responsive to negative stimuli. Bad is stronger than good because bad is inherently more threatening.

“As a result the media cater very directly to that powerful physiological reaction, giving us more of that which we fixate on and respond to, resulting in a slant towards negative news.”

The article went on to quote a specific example: “a very comprehensive list of all things that the Daily Mail have claimed ‘may’ cause cancer. The list includes water, soup, wearing flip flops and switching on the bathroom light at night.

“It’s more hilarious than offensive but led us to want to have a cheap laugh at the Mail’s expense this afternoon, it being Friday and all.

“So we made a faux-marble sign that we thought displayed a more accurate depiction of the Mail’s true editorial values, and sent someone – dressed as a workman in hard had and Hi Vis vest – to fix it to the side of their building in Kensington.

“Amazingly, it was a full hour before somebody noticed and removed it.

“Yes, we know the Daily Mail is an obvious target, and no, we don’t think it was very grown-up.”

It must have felt good, though.

Anyone wishing to keep an eye on Crowdwish’s future activities – or who wants to make a request – can do so via the address above.

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I told you it would come: Borishambles!

He just couldn’t keep his mouth shut, could he?

A couple of days ago, at the end of my article ‘Omnishambles, omnishambles, omnishambles’, I wrote ‘Coming soon: Borishambles!’. It wasn’t meant to be taken seriously; I was just acknowledging the Blond Buffoon’s popularity with Tory diehards.

But in a week when Tory backbench rebels handed the government a major Commons defeat over the EU budget, Boris gave me an early Christmas present. Watch this:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBmaCF3q7IM]

I know he was being followed by hecklers who were provoking him by calling him ‘Tory scum’ – but, while it’s impossible to say I approve of such language, considering the Conservative Party’s record since it came into government with the Liberal Democrats, that probably counts as merely mild criticism.

Boris didn’t see it that way. He snapped. The only remaining – even remotely – acceptable face of the Nasty Party showed its fangs. There’s no going back from that.

If you don’t like what the Coalition is doing in government, and you want to exercise your right to free speech about it, then in Boris Johnson’s mind you are a “Lefty tosser”.

Nice one, Boris. It’ll take a few more like that to completely ruin your chances of taking the Tory leadership, but there’s plenty of time.

We’ll keep an eye – and an ear – out for you.