Friday, 29 June 2012

Injustice coming to a court near you in October 2012

CrimeLine - pretty much the foremost provider of legal news and training to criminal lawyers - reported this morning that changes to Defendant's Costs Orders are expected to come into force this October.

A Defence Costs Order is something you get if you have been falsely accused of a crime, you pay for your own defence and you win your case.  It's simply a branch of the concept that the loser pays, in other words, if you are in the wrong then you get to pay the costs.  So, a convicted defendant can expect to pay towards the prosecution costs just as the prosecution get to pay toward the costs of an acquitted defendant.  Sound fair?  I think it is.

As of October, this is set to change.  Companies falsely accused of crime will have to pay for their own defence full stop.  Defendants in the Crown Court must either accept legal aid (with contributions of up to £900 per month) or pay privately in the knowledge that following an acquittal they will not receive back a penny of the money that have spent on their case.  Defendants in the magistrates court will only be able to recover costs at the same rate as legal aid payments, which means defendants who are not eligible for legal aid will have to pay a substantial amount of money to defend themselves - to give you an indication, you can expect a magistrates court trial in London to cost you around £1,500, whereas legal aid will pay the solicitor £378.46 in most cases.  It's a bit more complicated that that because firms tend to charge clients fixed fees rather than hourly rates but when you seek a Defendant's Cost Order you have to claim at an hourly rate, for comparison, a fairly typical hourly rate in London will be between £120 - £180 depending on the level of experience you want from your solicitor.  Legal aid will pay £49 per hour in London.

So an innocent defendant who is facing an allegation in the magistrates court can expect to pay a substantial amount to exercise their "right" to have equality of arms with the prosecution, who will be represented at trial by a proper solicitor or barrister.

Just so you know, the Legal Services Commission (LSC) guarantee you funding if your income is less than £12,475 p.a. or if you are on certain benefits.  If your income is between £12,476 and £22,325 then you may or may not get funding depending on a number of factors and in the Crown Court you are likely to have to pay a contribution toward your defence, if your income is over £22,325 then you get nothing in the magistrates court and will have to pay a contribution of up to £900 p/m toward your defence in the Crown Court.

Now, you might assume that the answer is simple, fat cat lawyers could simply reduce their outrageously high prices.  But, when you actually think about what you are buying you start to realise that being a proper solicitor is not cheap: the overheads are very high, the training is very lengthy and the risks to the solicitor are great.  This is why firms charge what seem like very high hourly rates.  Imagine you are having surgery, do you want a surgeon with little experience?  With sparse training?  Of course you don't.  Let's say you are having an extension built on your house, do you want the bloke who shows up with only a vague idea of how he'll do the work or the fella who comes along, looks at the plans and can show you examples of his work that are still standing?  I'm going to guess you want the second one. 

When I first began working we were a bit lax about charging private rates because legal aid paid a reasonable amount of money for a case - although the overall legal aid budget was a fraction of what it now is - and we knew that we could do a decent job for our clients on the fees being paid.  That hasn't been true for a while now and I can no longer put my hand on my heart and say that you will get as good a service if your solicitor is being paid by legal aid as you would if you pay him privately.  It's worth noting that that the Government has made substantial cuts to funding and just recently made a futher cut of 25% to most fees and 100% for cases heard in the magistrates court that go to the Crown Court for trial.  At the start of this year, we had a case that required five magistrate court hearing and for those hearings we got a fee of £0 (yes, zero pounds sterling).

Incidentally, the fact that we can no longer provide a good enough serivce on legal aid is one of the reasons I spoke to my contract manager at the LSC the other day and announced that we would be withdrawing from the contract and no longer providing services to legal aid clients!

Back to Defence Costs Orders.  Is it fair that a completely innocent person is accused of a crime they didn't commit, refused legal aid and then prevented from recovering the fees they had to pay to prove themselves innocent?  Is it fair that a small business accused of, say not paying their rates (as I bizarrely was on a building I do not own or rent a couple of months back) or an environmental offence, etc. should have to fork out to defend themselves?  Incidentally, the cost of defending myself against the false claim I owed rates cost my firm a little over £1,500+VAT, or would have if I hadn't represented the firm myself. 

The argument for bringing about this change in the Crown Court seems to be that legal aid is available (albeit with contributions) therefore all defendants should utilise it.  That argument clearly doesn't hold up in the magistrates court where legal aid is not universally available.  I cannot fathom the reasons for only allowing the innocent to recoup a fraction of the costs they spent defending themselves, other than it being a cynical and underhand ploy to make more people plead guilty on the basis that the fine is less than the cost of defending themselves.

If you are one of the people who read all of that (well done) and are thinking that you don't care because you're not a criminal, not only have you missed the point, but I'd ask you to consider a hypothetical situation you probably can imagine: It's a hot summers day, the bluebelles are in the fields and the sound of willow on leather can be heard across the countryside.  You are driving you car when some fool hits you.  Rather unsportingly, he blames you for the whole thing and his insurance company sues you.  You know you're in the right.  But, instructing a solicitor to defend you isn't possible because you can't claim the money back from his insurance company when you prove yourself innocent.  Is that fair?  No.  That won't happen because this change doesn't effect civil claims, but I hope it makes the point about unfairness... also, what if the police believed him and charged you with dangerous or careless driving?  Then it would apply to you.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Legal antenna

I went along to court yesterday for a first appearance in a case where my client and two others are accused of conspiracy to commit GBH.

First, I must say that the co-defendants' solicitor was delightful, insightful and extraordinarily clever... she must have been since she described me as inspirational and amazing.  She also suggested that I could earn a lot of money, "because of who you are."  Come to think of it, she may have thought I was somebody else.

Anyway, we had very different views of the case.  She said she thought the defendants would have to plead guilty in the Crown Court.  I was a little astonished.  I hadn't (and still can't) see how the prosecution can possibly prove their case given that the evidence indicates that the "victim" attacked and stabbed my client and that the victim was never attacked and did not sustain any injuries.  In the first place, I can't see the complainant actually showing up to court to make a complaint without some serious judicial arm twisting.  If he doesn't come along then I cannot see how the Crown can prove the conspiracy element as they'll have no direct evidence that the defendants were targetting him - they say there is some circumstantial evidence but I've yet to see it.  As there was no attack and no injury they cannot prove either GBH or attempted GBH.

That's my view having looked at the case summary, which is pretty much all we have at the moment.

Clearly one of us solicitors is right and the other is wrong.  Will be interesting to see the outcome.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Let's all abuse Louise Mensch and Menshn

Regular readers of this blog will realise that I have a particular dislike of politicians and that I consider most of them to be part of a corrupt sub-human species and that entry to Parliament should require each potential MP to answer the question "Do you want to be an MP?"  Those who answer yes would be automatically barred from the job.  There are a few MP's who have real-world experience and who are thus not as bad as the others.

This is why I was quite pleased when I heard that Louise Mensch was involved in the launch of Menshn, a new rival to Twitter.  Anybody who casts their eyes to the left will see that I use Twitter for discussing the law, politics and trying to convince everybody to ride a motorbike. 

I don't use Menshn.

There's no particular reason for that, aside from that it only launched the other day and, to be frank, I still feel like I'm involved in Twitter and Facebook far too early in their lives for my liking.

There have been a lot of criticisms of Menshn on Twitter.  Many of these involve issues with the coding of the website, perceived security issues and some questions over the privacy policies etc.  It's worth saying that despite hundreds of people claiming to have found huge security vulnerabilities there have been no successful breaches of Menshns' security, according to Louise Mensch on Twitter (slightly ironically).

One thing that did seem consistent yesterday on Twitter was the unnecessary amount of abuse directed at Louise Mensch.  People seemed to be using it as an opportunity to have a go at her on points that I doubt she has any involvement with, such as the coding.  She is not the only founder of Menshn, but she seems to be on the one getting most of the flack and a lot of it in quite unpleasent ways.  I pointed this out in a tweet and one genius replied enquiring whether Louise Mensch was herself poorly coded, thus proving my point.  I must say that the other well known founder is a boy, while Mrs Mensch is a girl.  From what I saw, the boy didn't seem to be getting anywhere near the amount of abuse as did the girl - comments directed at him appeared to be reasonable criticisms, whereas those to her were often personal.  I'm no feminist, but it did strike me as little more than a gang of school playground bullies boys trying to gang up on a girl in the playground... I suspect it may have felt like the attack of the nerds.

A common complaint about Menshn has been that there is no need for Menshn because we already have Twitter.  Okay then, would all the Apple users please shut up about Apple since we already had IBMs before the Mac and smart phones before the iPhone.  Being first to market does not mean that nobody else has a right to join a market with a product that looks very similar to an existing product.  If it did then Mr Dyson should be handing all his cash back to Hoover.  Competition is a good thing because it drives innovation - it's worth remembering that aeroplane technology took massive strides forward during the two World Wars due to the intense competition caused by the wars.

Is it bad that during a serious recession an MP is willing to invest in a new start up and build something that may (or may not) encourage people to discuss and become involved in politics?  I don't think so.

There is one massive plus point about Menshn that all the criticism highlighted: presumably the people who were acting like arseholes on Twitter yesterday won't be there!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

K2 Tax Avoidance Scheme and Jimmy Carr

If you came here looking for information about Jimmy Carr or to join the Jersey based K2 tax avoidance scheme then you are about to be disappointed as this blog post isn't really about either of them.

This week saw Dave Cameron show his somewhat hypocritical side on the issue of tax when he branded Jimmy Carr's involvement in K2 as "morally wrong".

Before going further, I'd like to clear up one thing.  In respect of tax, anything involving "evasion" is a crime and very naughty.  But, anything involving "avoidance" is legal and above board.  There are incidents where a scheme is set up to avoid tax, but where it is subsequently found to be in breach of the rules.  HMRC can then require payment of the underpaid tax and they usually do so with interest being charged.  So, a properly devised and managed tax avoidance scheme that is disclosed to HMRC is perfectly legit.

Given that HMRC are aware of K2 and have yet to indicate that it is anything other than above board you might have been as surprised as I was to hear our Prime Minister accuse somebody involved in a perfectly legal activity of having loose morals.  Incidentally, I know that Mr Carr has said sorry for his involvement.  Personally, I don't think he has anything to apologise for, but there you are.

Mr Carr is lucky that he is wealthy enough to take advantage of a scheme like K2.  But, let's think of situations where you might decide to structure your tax in the most advantageous way possible.  Do you own a house?  Do you have a will?  Did you tell your solicitor to draft the will without any thought as to the inheritance tax implications?  I bet you didn't.  Are you morally bankrupt? 

Let's imagine a hypothetical and really simple situation where Scotland has the power to control tax on petrol.  The Scottish government reduces tax on petrol to help Scottish business.  Are you morally bankrupt if you live on the English side and cross the board to fill up?  Of course you're not.  Is Jimmy Carr "morally wrong" to chose to structure his tax affairs in such a way that he keeps as much of his own earnings as possible?  Of course he isn't.

Whatever your views on tax avoidance, this outburst is yet another example of double-standards by politicians. 

I wonder whether Call Me Dave would now like to denounce Zac Goldsmith (Conservative MP for Richmond Park) for being morally wrong when he took his £200M inheritance, following his father's death, while a non-dom and keeping the bulk of it in a Cayman Island account?  At the time, Tory HQ said it was "a private matter".

Until he accepted a Peerage in 2000, Lord Ashcroft was a non-dom and paid no UK tax despite contributing £4M to the Conservative Party.  In 2010, Davey C didn't accuse one of his key donors of being morally wrong in the past, he described the issue as "a dead horse" and swept the matter under the carpet.


I know nothing of Mr Carr's political tendencies, but he doesn't strike me as a Tory support unlike Zac and Ashcroft.

Is avoiding tax illegal?  Nope.  Is it wrong to use legal methods to preserve as much of your own cash as possible?  Nope.  Does David Cameron criticise everybody who avoids tax?  Nope.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Scots prostitution laws miss the point

An MSP called Rhoda Grant has put up a bill that will make paying for sex a criminal offence I read today.  You could be forgiven if you thought that this was already a crime, because we generally speak as though it were.  But, in fact the offences relating to prostitution do not outlaw the oldest profession in the world but they do attack some of the more visible aspects of the sex trade.

For example, if a woman (or a man for that matter) were to accept money in return for sex then no crime is committed.  If she accepted money for sex where somebody else is also selling sex then that's a brothel.  If she is hanging about on the street looking for kerb crawlers then offences are committed by both the purchaser and the seller of sex.

So, if you were to put an ad on an internet site offering call girl (or gigolo) services off of your own back and the transaction took place entirely in private where nobody else was working then neither party is likely to be committing a criminal offence.  Although, if the sex worker has a partner then he may be committing the offence of living off immoral earnings... slightly odd twist.

I understand that Ms Grant wants the new law to help crack down on "serious criminal activity associated with prostitution".  Now let's think about this for a minute.  What are the offences associated with prostitution?  They are things like, human trafficking, drugs, guns and violence.  Let's assume that the new law imposed 12 months imprisonment for offences relating to prostitution... something, which I find extraordinarily unlikely as the sentence is likely to be a fine at most.  Well, the sentences for the serious criminal activities are all much higher than the prostitution so they won't deter the serious criminals.

Will this law deter the girls and women in the sex trade?  I have no doubt that there is at least one woman who got into the sex game through a love of sex.  But, for the other 99.99% it is not so much a choice but a situation in which they find themselves either through a lack of money leading to a decision to whore or, more commonly, a complex interaction with some sort of gang (for want of a better word) that leads to drug use and a spiral into prostitution then ultimately coercion to remain on the game from the pimps and dealers.  Will the woman with no choice be deterred?  Um... I'm going to guess not.


So, we come on to the men who use prostitutes.  Will they be deterred from visiting sex workers?  I suggest that the men who visit prostitutes generally fall into two categories.  First, are single men and second are men in a relationship (either married or long-term).  Now, the second group have everything to lose if they are caught and the police send a letter home to the missus, which they do.  Yet, these men still do it.  If the risk of losing their wife, home and contact with their kids isn't sufficient then the low level punishment dolled out by a court isn't going to deter them.  What of the first group?  Are they lonely or lads out looking for a laugh?  Either way I suspect that few will be put off a trip to the local call girl.

I have made this point several times in previous blog entries and I make it again for the benefit of any politicians reading this.  The answer to societies ills is not the passing of yet more draconian laws.  The answer often lies in using the laws that you already have.  It is already illegal to force somebody into prostitution.  Guns, generally, are illegal.  Dealing drugs is illegal.  These are offences that carry very very heavy sentences.  Dedicate more resources to enforcing the laws you have rather than passing more laws that won't help anybody and which you probably won't enforce anyway.

Here's a thought.  If you want to reduce serious criminal activity associated with prostitution then why not legalise the sex trade?  At a stroke the workers will cease to need to hide underground and fear arrest for earning their living.  Thus they will emerge from the shadows and from the power of the pimps who traffic women for sex and use the income to buy drugs to sell on and who require guns to prevent other dealers stealing their drugs.

Why would a man go to an underground brothel where the girls are likely to have been trafficked if there are legal, clean and licensed facilities available?

On a side note, I had a client accused of kerb crawling a few years ago.  A girl waved him down and asked if he wanted some "business".  He said, "yes, of course" and was then arrested.  The police refused to accept that flagging down a black cab in London, asking if he wanted business and then arresting him was a bit off.  Fortunately, the magistrates were having none of that nonsense and dismissed the case.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Recommending deportation for foreign criminals

Theresa May has been criticised quite a bit over the past couple of weeks and she's been taking it in the neck from the Guardian and many lawyers over her suggestion that the right to a family life is a qualified right that can be overridden in some situations.  More importantly, she's upset lawyers by suggesting judges use their power under the Immigration Act 1971 to recommend deportation from the UK of foreign criminals.

Now, I may upset some of my learned friends, but I actually agree with Theresa on this one.  As Lawson LJ said in Nizari, "This country has no use for criminals of other nationalities, particularly if they have committed serious crimes or have long criminal records."

I have dealt with a number of defendants who have committed very serious offences but who have escaped deportation for reasons I've never fathomed.  In one case, drunken failed asylum seeker disagreed with a doorman's decision to remove him from a night club as a) he was exceptionally drunk; and b) he was bothering some women.  In response the chap returned to the club with an imitation firearm and began threatening to kill the doorman and his colleagues.  The fake gun was taken from him by a brave bouncer but the drunk chap then pulled a knife and continued to threaten the doormen until the police arrived.  Last I heard he had been released from prison and remains in the UK.  In another case, a defendant committed a huge fraud against the UK government that allowed thousands of people to enter or remain in the UK illegally.  She has yet to pay any of her confiscation order despite having the funds available in her bank account in her home country.  Again, she remains in the UK with her children who are being educated at British tax payers expense.  This is not somebody from a dangerous country who cannot return for fear of what might happen to her... her family are lawyers and are rather well off.

Now, I don't want anybody to think I've flipped and have joined the BNP, I haven't.  Nor have I suddenly decided to develop a racist bent.  I love immigrants, there's always something great that they bring to the UK whether its a cultural thing, food, beer, a joyful love of life or something else. 

What I do object to is people who view the UK as a soft touch that they can abuse safe in the knowledge that they'll not be sent home no matter what they do. 

I have to say that if you arrive in the UK and set up a family then deliberately set out on a life of crime then it is you who must consider your family's welfare and everybody else should not have to put up with you.  If your family cannot or will not live with you in your home nation then it is you who have broken up the family, not the state or the judge who recommends deportation.

I know you wouldn't want me to end without having a dig at the politicians, so I'll just mention that judges recommend deportation, the person they recommend deportation to is... er Theresa May!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Magistrates make me mad, part 3

I previously wrote, here and here, about a case of a young person who was convicted and sentenced as part of the London riots.  The posts were ostensibly about the conduct of the chair of the bench of magistrates rather than the case itself.

Today the case came before the Crown Court for appeal and the defendant was acquitted... the original trial advocate is now looking rather sullen, although from what I hear from the defendant and family he conducted the trial as well as anybody could have done, just on the day the tribunal were not with him.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Police to prosecute 50% magistrate court cases

I have just noticed a press release from the Home Office that explains the police are to be given more powers to prosecute certain types of offences.  It even says in bold at the top that the police will handle 50% of magistrate court cases!

I must admit that I am completely perplexed by the rationale behind this, which may be the result of a badly worded press release.  It seems that police officers are having their time wasted by sitting about at court and so to solve this the Home Office wants police officers to do all the work in court.... that's my reading of it any way.  The press release says, "The bureaucracy cutting move will see about 500,000 cases taken through the courts by officers" (my emphasis).  That looks like it is saying that the police will be expected to stand up and present cases, which should be a laugh although I can't see how that will either save police officers time nor speed up justice.

Currently, police officers prepare the evidence, which is handed to the Crown Prosecution Service.  At court a CPS lawyer will stand up and present the case to the magistrates.  It looks as if the Home Office is suggesting that now the CPS lawyers will eventually be replaced by police officers in court.  I'm sure that can't be right since police officers lack the legal knowledge to conduct a trial or manage a sentencing hearing and, I suspect, most of them probably didn't sign up to do those jobs anyway.

The press release is confusing because, on the one hand motoring offences account for about double all the other criminal offences put together, so allowing the police to prosecute them all will give you the 50% figure talked of at the start... although that would make the claim somewhat misleading if you ask me.  The move will begin with uncontested traffic offences (99% of which neither a defendant nor police officer is required to attend - so making the police attend them to prosecute seems counter-productive), the implication being that it will be extended beyond uncontested traffic offences to either contested traffic offences OR non-traffic offences where a guilty plea is anticipated.

In any event, I'm sure that the CPS staff will be pleased to hear them selves described as bureaucrats by Theresa May when she said, "[o]ur model of more power for the police and the public and less for the bureaucrats will free up the finest officers in the world to fight crime."  It's interesting that Theresa May should be so against bureaucrats given that her last job was with the Association of Payment Clearing Services, which is... er... a company dedicated to the bureaucratic elements of processing card payments.  Even more worrying is the contempt in which she appears to hold the lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service, who are employed to fight for justice in the courts for victims.

If this heralds a swing against jobs in the CPS (recruitment for which has been virtually frozen for years) then expect to see the numbers of convictions swiftly drop in its wake.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Republicanism

We're in the middle of the long Jubilee weekend for Liz's 60 years on the throne and it's been quite fun reading and listening to all the weird and wonderful reasons for ditching the monarchy.  None of the reasons I've heard have convinced me so far and I'll talk about some of the better reasons in a minute.  First, I should come clean and admit I am a bit of a Royalist.  Not in the sense that I've been out waving flags or anything but in the sense that I prefer the Queen to yet another elected politician who is only going to lie to us for a few years then lower tax for a week in a effort to keep his job.  I also played in a sandpit with Prince Charles as a kid, but I haven't let that cloud my judgment.

My favourite 3 reasons to become a republic in no particular order:
  1. Their armies fought to obtain and maintain their position
  2. They have too much power and are unaccountable
  3. They don't serve any function
Now let's have a think about each one in order.

First, I don't remember Liz fighting for her throne.  My understanding is that she is the direct descendent of George I, the first of the Hanoverian monarchs.  While Georgie undoubtedly fought wars to expand his territory in his home land, he did not fight to become King here.  He simply inherited the title on the death of Queen Anne.

Even if HMQ's ancient family were involved in wars to obtain the throne I don't see how that is an argument for abolishing the modern Royal family.  Take that to its extremes and we'll be giving England to the Welsh (who seem to me to be the original Britons before the Saxons, Normans, etc).

Point two is actually a far more powerful arguments and by happy co-incidence almost completely contradicts point three, which is always nice.

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle tells us that we can know the position of a particle or the speed of a particle but you cannot know both with any certainty (sorry hope the sudden change of tack didn't make you seasick).  HMQ's powers are analogous to the uncertainty principle in that we know what the powers are and we know what will happen if they are exercised in the way we expect, but we cannot be certain what would happen if Liz got drunk and tried to use her powers contrary to the will of the elected Government.  If that is correct then Liz both has power and yet has no power.

Let us say that Call Me Dave and his pet Liberal decided to force through an Act of Parliament that abolishes the monarchy.  HM Liz II feels a little hard done by and so when the Bill is presented for Royal Assent she refuses to sign.  What happens next?  There is no precedent that I am aware of for how to proceed.  I suspect; however, that Parliament would suddenly remember that it is supreme and that all is required for a law to be good is for Parliament to say so.  Will the Queen and the Royal family be abolished?  Yes.  So, what happens if the Queen refuses to use her power in the way directed by the Government?  It ceases to exist.  The alternative would be unacceptable to anybody, it would be a return to autocracy and no elected Parliament would allow that to happen.

There is a grey area where the Act of Parliament is less important, say Dave and Nick forced through an Act of Parliament ordering the destruction of all cute kittens and HMQ refused to sign, what then?  In principle the situation is no different, the elected Parliament can either accept a loss of face and almost certain electoral defeat at the next election or they can reform the way in which a Bill becomes and Act.

So, it seems to me that while Liz does appear to have very important and serious powers, those powers are in reality a smoke screen.  They are like a judge who presides of a murder trial and completely believes the defendant to be innocent.  But, the defendant is convicted by the jury.  The trial judge could stand up and walk out of court refusing to do his duty, but in reality unless he wants a swift end to his judicial career (and possibly a criminal conviction for misconduct in judicial office) he has no choice but to impose a life sentence on the man he thinks to be innocent!

Now, let us turn to our final object that the Royals serve no function.  Given what I've already said you might expect me to accept this point.  I don't, obviously, else where would be the fun in writing about it?

The Royal family serve a couple of important functions.  They have a minor impact on tourism.  I say minor because if we exiled them all to Elba tomorrow morning we'd still have all the Royal palaces etc that people really come to see.

I am told that they do serve a very important diplomatic function and that a visit by a member of the Royal family is used as part of the UK's overall diplomatic efforts across the globe.  One thing that is worth saying is that the Foreign Office has a lot of options at its disposal and if they didn't think the Royals did a good job here then they'd stop sending them.  It is a sign of how important the Royals are thought of abroad that the Taliban showed some interest in capturing Prince Harry in Afghanistan... I mean who here would want to capture him??  Put simply, foreigners seem to love our Royal family.  Their governments love to rub shoulders with Royalty to show their domestic audiences how important they are.

What would happen if we abolished the Royals?  For a start we'd have an embarrassing little situation with the money.  Do we put Liz and Phil up in a two-bed semi in Romford and continue using money with her mug on it?  Are we going to print a whole new range of coins and notes?  Maybe we should join the Euro.  Don't even get me started on the stamps.

Who would replace Liz?  As I see it there are two options.  Either a presidential figure or nobody and we just get on sans figure head.  The president would no doubt be yet another politician who has never had a proper job and is completely out of touch with the lives of ordinary people.  At least Liz spent some time working as a mechanic and driver in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War.  What was Call Me Dave's last proper job?

That's my opinion anyway feel free to disagree... I'll probably change my mind in a week or two any way.