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A bold claim, I hear you cry - but Chris Grayling is something special. This is a man who’s walked the unusual path from middle management at the BBC to the heady heights of Secretary of State for Justice – as well as being the first Lord Chancellor without a law degree for 400 odd years. Grayling comes from an illustrious political background: he’s previously been implicated in the expenses scandal, and is known for misusing statistics and making homophobic comments. But let’s take a walk around the carnival of incompetence he’s put together in his two-year tenure at his current post.

Being Secretary of State for Justice is generally a good position to be in for a politician, especially a Conservative one. The majority of people don’t particularly care about the welfare of prisoners and you can enact pretty much any policy you want as long as it’s seen as “tough on crime”. Of course, that’s as long as you make sure to forget that prison is supposed to rehabilitate, and not merely punish. In this vein, Grayling enacted a harsh new incentive programme in 2013 that made it harder for prisoners to access “luxuries” unless they behaved to the guards’ satisfaction. Controversially, the list of luxuries included books that had been given them by family members, and there was also a cap on how many books prisoners were allowed in their cells. If this doesn’t sound so bad, I invite you to sit inside a closet for 22 hours a day with only the Reader’s Digest condensed version of Moby Dick, and see if this improves your state of mind. We don’t yet know what effect this incentive programme has had on re-offending rates and general prisoner behaviour. We do know that in the years since Grayling was installed, prisoner suicide rates have soared to a ten-year high, and instances of prisoner homicides are at their greatest since 1998. Say what you like about Michael Gove but I don’t think his policies have resulted in any deaths yet. Perhaps this is the Lord Chancellor’s novel way of solving prison overcrowding.

More recently, Grayling has been swimming in the pool of pig waste he produced by bafflingly deciding to cut large amounts from the legal aid budget. This caused a series of strikes by members of the legal profession and has even caused the complete abandonment of one case. At the start of this month the Prime Minister’s brother, Alexander Cameron QC, convinced a judge that the defendants in a relatively minor financial fraud case could not be tried fairly because, due to fee cuts, no lawyer would take their case. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) appealed that decision this week but if the judgement is upheld then it could set a precedent for other prosecutions, including those resulting from Operation Tabernula, the FCA’s largest ever investigation into insider trading.

The FCA is understandably annoyed by this, and it’s made worse by the fact that the Lord Chancellor had an entire year to solve this problem, longer if you count warnings that this would happen before the cuts were even enacted. Leaving it until the last possible second, Grayling took the extraordinary step of intervening in this week’s appeal. Hypocritically, he appointed a high-priced lawyer to argue that, although the Lord Chancellor was “entirely neutral” to whatever the outcome of this trial, the defendants would get a lawyer soon because he will place job advertisements in newspapers "as soon as this weekend" to expand the Public Defender Service. The Judge then refused the Lord Chancellor’s desperate request to add new evidence, leaving Grayling’s advocate to give a paltry two minute statement that added nothing to the case, all at the taxpayer’s expense. The FCA may very well win the appeal, but then the government will be left in the embarrassing position of paying more money to public defenders to work the case than they would have paid to independent lawyers even without the cuts.

The most revealing quote to come from this appeal was that the Lord Chancellor expected that “matters would be somehow be resolved” without any of his input during this year of dallying. This will probably sum up Grayling’s legacy; imagine him, a man who’s jumped off a run-away steam roller only to land right in front of it, silently staring, as it inches over him at a snail’s pace. I understand a Conservative minister taking a laissez-faire approach to the economy, but a laissez-faire approach to the justice system is a step too far. Grayling embodies all the worst aspects of this government: cutting for the sake of cuts, the blind ideological zeal of Michael Gove, Iain Duncan-Smith’s contempt for the worst off in society, and on top of all that a healthy dollop of unthinking idiocy all his own. I defy you to find someone who has done more harm with their position of responsibility.

Matt tweets @mattbcooperAgree? Disagree? Email comment@varsity.co.uk with opinions on this or anything else.

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