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Why did I write and stage Death of a Nightingale for a month in the New End Theatre in London? The answer at 3 pm on Sunday 17 January. It was as great a surprise to me as to anyone that I should do so. It was certainly not part of a plan or even the slightest expectation
Very simply it was my protest against zany ideologues who shut over 100 schools in the UK totally regardless of cost and consequence, denying parents of children with special needs their choice of school for their children and little Hitlers who helped them. Other routes to protest were blocked off. I was to discover that even this route had to face some obstruction.
My play is a tragedy. It is fiction but it draws on uncomfortable fact and reveals uncomfortable truths about those closures.
And I tell it now because it seems to me to be the best way to flag up more zany ideologues and little Hitlers, and deal with a personal situation when again all other routes appear to be blocked.
That situation further illustrates what I need to say. Human Rights are not always the road to Heaven that some people think that it is. In education especially, Equality is a mischief word when Diversity is a good deal more important. There are casualties, many of them. My story started out in the world of special educational needs. It ends echoing the words of the late Sir Ken Robinson on education generally.
For me, life has been a series of learning experiences and I would like to share them with you.
This is the situation. I have written a book entitled Kafka’s Cycle – slow death of a complaint. You may think what a fuss about a cycle lane for non-existent cyclists. Yet it provides a case study critical of the Ombudsman system in the UK; and it also criticises the judgment of a firm of human rights lawyers who refused to write a letter, to be precise a pre-action protocol letter, on the grounds that in their view judicial review would be “bound to fail” and professionally they could not write it. And I could not write it either because I was a non-practising barrister – I prefer now to call myself a former barrister. I had given them a dossier with over 100 pages of evidence and explanation.
Today you can actually see precisely what I was trying to complain about in a temporary pop-up cycle lane in Newcastle. And see what happens when Sustrans, the cycling lobby, is in charge! If you click the link you, like me, may find the negativity of the lawyers here totally incomprehensible.
I have a publisher for this book, but they have told me that they cannot publish it because that firm of solicitors to whom I sent a copy has said that if I criticise them, they will sue for Libel and they refuse to even to read the book and tell me where anything I write is untrue or dishonest.
They put their reputation before my freedom of expression.
I have spent the past year – and some money with it – trying to find allies in the legal profession prepared to assert what actually underlines much of my writing and that is the relativity of human rights. Often human rights are not all equal and absolute. Often, they are relative and qualified by the rights of others that conflict with them, sadly then totally ignored, honesty and fair play AWOL.
Here, for instance, is my right of free expression that, in my view, is more important than theirs to protect their reputation. The Solicitors Regulation Authority said that their response was “robust” even though they are on record as saying: “Where two or more Principles come into conflict the one which takes precedence is the one which best serves the public interest in the particular circumstances, especially the public interest in the proper administration of justice “.
For human rights lawyers and lawyers generally to deny this, in my view, is sheer hypocrisy. Solidarity appears to pre-empt integrity every time. And not just lawyers. This is a virus that infects corporate UK. If they also deny the relativity of many human rights as well, they make another big mistake.
I told this story at Limmud, a Jewish Learning experience religious and secular in its reach, this year zooming its participants instead of meeting up at a University. My story describes my learning experience in a life of many experiences. I now intend to re-zoom it at 3 pm on Sunday 17 January and give the story a larger audience. Please message me and I will give you access as long as numbers allow.
These are the words of Sir Ken Robinson that I echo:
•“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. …
“Creativity is as important as literacy.”
“Education and training are the keys to the future. A key can be turned in two directions. Turn it one way and you lock resources away; turn it other way and you realize resources and give people back to themselves