Our legal eagles offer up their judicious verdicts on the Blair era, with the other TB, Tony Bingham, finding himself surprisingly misty eyed at the departure of a Labour PM
Lordy, Lordy! Is it 10 years for TB?
Well now, I raise two things to prime minister TB from this TB. The first is my eyebrow. The second is my glass.
Come to think of it, let’s raise a glass to him first. I know some of you won’t want to join in. Politicians per se aren’t popular. But the lad has done his best to be human. He’s just my sort of fella. How come? Well, I make mistakes and so does he. I think I am right and so does he. I like soft soap and so does he. And just because I don’t always share his point of view doesn’t mean we can’t get on.
So, cheers TB.
The eyebrow? Well, it’s because he actually made me forget that he was part of the red team. I confess I was downhearted when his reds came to power. That’s because I was kicking around construction when the reds were in power courtesy of James Callaghan in the mid to late seventies. I even remember pipe-smoking Harold Wilson.
I was downhearted because the previous red policy was massive on public expenditure and massive on daft taxation. Nobody in the red team wanted us youngsters to do well, climb the ladder or earn good money.
I gained the impression as a young man that socialism was not about equal opportunity but about being equal. I was obliged to be equal. Fiddlesticks, said I.
In 1997 I was completely outwitted by TB’s willingness to support the blue team’s idea, which gave us the Construction Act. Blow me, TB pushed it into legislation. That act was momentous
I want to do better than the next bloke. But Big Jim, “Sunny Jim” Callaghan, made me equal through taxation. My income tax rate was 86%, honest. Investment tax was plus 10% – yes, 96%. That made me equal.
So when TB of the reds came to power, I could see income tax beating me up again. But no. Hence the raised eyebrow. Cleverly, he sublet the tax shenanigans to a neighbour. That clever chap invented stealth tax and squeezed those wheezes past you and me by stealth. Come on, it is clever.
The eyebrow raised again when TB adopted, ever so quietly, the “third way”. He levered things like social housing out of government and local authority hands. The sales line was that instead of having local authority housing departments, a “something” was invented to reconcile socialism and capitalism in the same business model … the third sector in social housing is working ever so well. I raised an eyebrow. Rumour has it that even the blue folk are in favour.
As for coming to power in 1997, I was completely outwitted by TB’s willingness to support the blue team’s idea, which gave us the Construction Act. Ten years ago I thought that simply because the opponent came up with an idea, the other team would beat it up. Blow me, TB supported the payment rules and adjudication principles inherited from John Major’s team and pushed them into legislation. That act was momentous. I know I whinge about this flaw or that flaw. Truth is, I didn’t think it would make the statute book. And people who don’t like it don’t because it gave a thick ear to those who made their money through an inept legal system.
TB deserves a raised glass because he created the circumstances in which people can be their own man, their own woman. True, his team can’t resist flipflopping back into “regulating” what we do. I still don’t know which dustbin to put my crisp packet in. I don’t smoke, but relegating a smoker to the pub veranda is a regulation too far. The trick that politicians still have to learn is to leave us ordinary folk alone. And I do admit that I’m up to here about emissions, carbon footprints, climate control and global warming. TB’s team does go a tad too far ramming all that stuff down my throat. Give it a rest.
TB’s mistakes? Hell, that’s what humans do. Why am I comforted? Well it’s because, just like TB, you and I have to make judgment calls. You on site and me in the disputes room. TB made a mistake about Iraq. I made a mistake in a recent dispute I decided. I am convinced that both TBs believe what they decide is fair dos. Good faith, it’s called. You and I and TB decide things wrongly but in good faith. I am comfortable.
I tell you and TB this: not once have I voted for him. These days I vote “none of the above”. It’s my democratic right to raise two things to the politicians. Not just a glass or an eyebrow. But I wish them well, wish them enlightenment and I wish TB well, even if he is my opponent.
Tony Bingham is a barrister and arbitrator
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Here’s to Tony