Man of the people

The Lord Chancellor's startling attack on "fat-cat" barristers certainly excited the media last week. Apart from the fact that the comments are completely meaningless in terms of the debate's subject matter, they are also pretty rich coming from one of the fattest cats of them all.

However, it is a fact of life that less access to the courts as a result of higher fees is a rather uninteresting sound bite for the media compared with overpaid barristers, which was why Lord Irvine was guaranteed pages of coverage while court fees, the real issue of the day, ended up as a minor sideshow.

But not only did Lord Irvine manage to stage-manage the issue so that rich commercial barristers took the flak, he also managed to deflect some of the blame for higher court fees onto the judiciary.

The major coup, however, was his emergence from the ashes of the fees debacle as a reborn, populist Lord Chancellor with the interests of the man from the Clapham Omnibus on his agenda. This, of course, is a very positive result considering he rubber-stamped the previous government's decision to increase fees for the same man on the Clapham Omnibus.

Court fees go up, the Lord Chancellor's reputation with the people goes up, the legal profession is put on notice and we all wait to see what Lord Irvine's next move is…