American Gods

You’d have hope. Rebellions are built on hope.

-Jynn Urso.

Like the rest of the country, over the last two weeks I have watched with fascination as yet another Conservative Prime Minister commits political suicide with an ill timed election staged mid term, when a sitting government can expect to be at its most unpopular. Although Mrs May may not quite be a “dead woman walking” in Mr Osborne’s charmless and unchivalrous phrase, her political days are plainly numbered.

At the time of writing, she is being slowly crucified by the Tory Press, anxious now to see her gone, and for the Clown Prince, Mr Johnson, to inherit her Iron Throne. Perhaps of most significance to the readers of this blog, the Lord Chancellor of 11 months standing has been demoted, and the Ministry of Justice must now endure with baited breath the appointment of yet another non-lawyer to deal with an overflowing intray of initiatives, including the modernization of the courts, a huge IT initiative, prison reform and last but not least the vexed question of costs reform.

In a sense, the recent political ructions were profoundly predictable. This country has endured nearly a decade of austerity and is now a much more unequal nation, patently not at ease with itself.

Mrs May with her dementia tax, her talk of grammar schools (for the few, not the many) and a free vote for fox hunting, massively misjudged the political mood.

Mr Corbyn in contrast offered to end university tuition fees: the electorate did not blanch.

He offered to nationalise our shambolic railways: the electorate did not flinch.

He offered to pay for social care in old age, by amongst other measures increasing corporation tax.

And the electorate grew thoughtful.

But I digress from the subject of costs.

It is to the latter, that this blog in its determinedly apolitical stance now turns.

It seems to me that of the various costs initiatives and reforms currently underway, those which are deemed necessary by the Civil Service and which do not require primary legislation are likely to survive, those which are seen as superfluous or which require primary legislation, will like the grammar school initiative and a return to fox hunting with hounds be quietly placed in the circular filing cabinet to await kinder days.

Accordingly, I would predict that the issue of fixed costs in clinical negligence cases is likely to proceed, just as reform of the discount rate is likely to proceed because the government or rather HM Treasury is intimately concerned with these reforms as a compensating body.  Moreover no primary legislation is likely to be required for clinical negligence fixed costs.

Further and equally, the Jackson review into fixed costs is likely to bear fruit next month: no primary legislation is likely to be required as the statutory powers are contained in the Senior Courts Act 1981 to make rules on costs.

But the whiplash reforms, I would tentatively suggest are in trouble. Any primary legislation in this field is likely to prove contentious, and I suspect that the embattled Tory minority government has more important and bigger fish to fry. So it may yet be that the reforms which would decimate the road traffic market, simply will not come to pass, in the foreseeable future.

The Small Claims Track limit may yet rise, as that does not require primary legislation: but without the cuts in levels of damages, contemplated by statutory prescription of awards for whiplash injuries, I predict solicitors will simply move to a contingency based arrangement taking 25% of damages in road traffic personal injury claims, in the Small Claims Track, and in a sense it will be business as normal.

If only.

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