Some reading this may also have read my previous blog posts [see Notes, below] about my rather untraditional Bar pupillage in 1992-93, and also about my early post-pupillage days in Bar practice. I thought to write about a few other stray incidents from those times. Humour was rarely entirely absent, though sometimes in the context of events which were, especially for the people advised or represented, taxing and upsetting. I was, of course, in the first six months of my pupillage not allowed to advise or represent, and so was basically a spectator and supernumerary.
Anyway, here is one event that has stuck in my recollection. It is not directly “legal”, but connected to some lawyers I knew.
At the time, in 1992, I was very friendly with a young barrister called Neil M. and his charming wife, Helen. Both had been in the same small “Practical Exercises” group at “Bar School” (the Inns of Court School of Law in Gray’s Inn, at the time the only place where aspiring barristers could study and be examined) in 1987-88. Our surnames all started with “M” (Neil and Helen had different surnames at that time, being unmarried; in fact they first met in that little group of 7 or 8 people).
I had gone to the USA (initially in 1989, but somewhat commuted UK/USA in the following few years) and had married a US citizen; I also qualified by exam (and pretty tough it was) at the New York Bar. Neil M. had started pupillage in London and, by 1992, was already a rising barrister at the criminal Bar. Helen, his wife by that time, had left the Bar for the solicitors’ profession. In 1992, when I returned to the UK after one of my sojourns in New Jersey, the country was just going to hold the General Election of that year.
I was not actively political at the time, though I of course despised the System parties. Neil M., on the other hand, was a Labour Party stalwart, a political position which originated from his upbringing in the North West of England: he was the son of an amiable “tankie” Communist (literally so, a member of the C.P.G.B.), whom I met a couple of times in later years.
Neil M. was, I suppose, somewhere in the middle of the Labour Party, ideologically, close to the outlook of John Smith, the Scottish advocate who led Labour for about 20 months until his death in 1994. I should characterize Neil’s outlook as “tribal Labour”; to me that had no greater weight than that of someone who supports this or that football team, or Oxford/Cambridge in the Boat Race. In fact, Neil M. concurred with my view up to a point, saying that I could not understand why people like him were so partisan in favour of a System party; for him it indeed was like “…supporting a football or rugby team; you don’t understand that either!”
I was invited to attend the special election night dinner at the beautifully-refurbished National Liberal Club, once the haunt of Gladstone, Lloyd George and Asquith, later (in the 1970s) the decayed and dilapidated place where the likes of Cyril Smith and Jeremy Thorpe had stayed and behaved badly. By 1992, most members were “non-political” (meaning not Liberal Democrats). Much later yet, in 2001-2002, I was myself a member.
Large TV screens had been set up in the Club dining room, in order to relay the election results from the BBC as they came in.
Older readers will recall that the opinion polls made Labour favourite to win the 1992 General Election. Neil Kinnock was widely expected to become Prime Minister, though later his triumphalist and arguably too-“Labourite” speech at Sheffield was blamed for putting off floating voters:
At any rate, Labour went into the final day and evening confident, a position echoed by many of those at the dinner I attended. In fact, I noted that many were not pro-Labour, but were quieter than the Labour partisans. At my table, I sat near Neil M. and his wife, as well as another barrister, a markedly iconoclastic (and amusing) Jew commercial barrister called Robert L. and his extremely engaging, attractive and articulate wife, a City of London banker, with whom I had an interesting and slightly barbed conversation.
All went well at the dinner until, after midnight, it started to become very obvious that Labour was not going to win the election. The scene in parts of the large Club dining room reminded me of a smarter and English (and far less sexualized) version of Don’s Party, the Australian film about a party which unravels when the expected victory of the Australian Labor Party (in 1969) fails to occur. I left the Club very late but still before most of the diners. I was told later that, after I left, scuffles and the like broke out between mocking “Conservatives” and angry, frustrated and drunken “Labour” partisans.
I myself was highly amused by the outcome of the election, mainly because, to me, it was obvious that most of the Labour MPs in the Shadow Cabinet were a bunch of fakes and/or hypocrites, led by Kinnock himself, a creeping crawling doormat for Zionists, and an apologist for mass immigration and finance-capitalism ameliorated slightly by a Welfare State already beginning to show signs of disappearance.
Neil M. was angry at me (and years later admitted to me that he had come close to hitting me! In the sacred precincts of the Club, at that!). He himself later became a local councillor in Islington and was informally offered the chance to become a Labour MP, but turned down the opportunity on the ground that as a barrister doing very good criminal work, he was making about twice an MP’s salary and needed the money. Years later he ruefully explained that he had thought that MPs lived off their salaries! He had no idea back then that not only did they have very generous expenses (and in many cases cheated badly on those!) as well as the really quite good salary (compared to most people), but also often had offers of lucrative “work” from all sorts of “consultancies” etc. Disguised near (or actual) corruption. Pity that Neil M. did not become a politician in the Westminster monkeyhouse. He would have been a good and conscientious constituency MP.
In fact, Labour improved their position in the election, with an extra 42 MPs, though that still left the Conservatives under John Major with an overall majority of 21. It took 5 years before Labour under Tony Blair could sweep away the Conservatives and many of their MPs. Neil Kinnock ceded control of Labour to John Smith and then (after Smith died in office) to Tony Blair.
As for my friends Neil M. and Helen M. (I shall not say too much, to save them from embarrassment, now that the Zionist Jews label me in the msm and on social media as a “far right” “extremist”, “anti-Semite” and “neo-Nazi”), I maintained friendship for another 15 years, and in fact still regard them as quite close friends today, though I have not seen them now for a decade. I always send them a Christmas card (I’m like that, a bit like Jacob and the Angel: I will not let you go until you bless me…).