In the coming weeks you will see some big changes at the Good Law Project.
For three years the Good Law Project has been little more than bank account and battered Nokia. But the part time COO we hired in the autumn, Siham Bortcosh, has been brilliant midwife to the more professional organisation we needed to be. With her help, we have recruited four posts: a Legal Fellow, a Membership Officer and an Executive Assistant. And we are hugely excited that Trish Murray – currently Head of Campaigns at 38 Degrees – will be joining us in late February as our new Director of Fundraising and Membership. She is a class act and we are lucky to have her. And we hope shortly to move into a physical office.
“Yes, but what does all this mean for me, Maugham?” I hear you ask.
Well, there will be the admin-y stuff. A new website – where you can actually find stuff – will be up imminently. We will also be able to write and thank those whose money lets us turn on the lights. More importantly, we want to engage more meaningfully with you. Our relationship must go beyond the financial: we need your help to amplify the values we share.
I also know you value the clarity with which we, and I, talk about the values we share. Nothing makes me prouder than to hear from you, often in person, that by speaking and acting as I do I have made space for you to do likewise.
But the costs have become hard for me to bear.
The life I now have is very different from the one I enjoyed in 2017. Confining my paid work to only one or two days a week has meant financial sacrifices for my family – we live well but have had to tighten our belts. But the real price is paid elsewhere.
Death threats are now a commonplace of my life. Over the Christmas period two men attempted to break into our house – while it was occupied – but the frequency of death threats meant the house was listed with police as vulnerable they arrived almost immediately.
I receive an unfathomable amount of public abuse.
Driving home one Sunday in November my eldest asked “Dad, what have you done?” It was a perfectly normal Sunday – there was nothing about me in the traditional media and I had barely been on social media – but twitter was reporting an average of 1600 messages about me an hour, almost all of them abusive.
My professional colleagues routinely receive emails attacking their association with me, my Chambers has had to take extra security measures, and I receive periodic packages from my professional regulator of bulk complaints made by those who oppose the work I do.
I am not sure how this became my life. I take no public money. Indeed, I have taken nothing from the money you give to the Good Law Project. I have no constituents to whom I am electorally answerable and I wield no power in Parliament.
“Haters gonna” – as the noted US philosopher Taylor Swift mused – “hate.” And as an organisation we shake it off – the number of people giving to us monthly is actually up in the period since the General Election – but it is harder for me.
I developed a thick skin – I could only do the work I did because of it – but it coarsened me. Since leaving social media in December I have been a better father to my children and have become more alert to the detail and truth of life around me. I am thinking about if and when and how I might return – twitter allowed me to do much of which I am proud – but as an organisation we are thinking about how to work without it.
All that aside, there is a real, indeed an enhanced, need for the function we perform.
The General Election result and our peculiar constitution means we can’t look to Parliament to control the Government. For five years – or even ten – the challenges to bad capitalism and bad Government will need to come through the courts. In public we might have been quiet but in private we have been building a powerful pipeline of work in areas such as poverty, factory farming, the environment, vulnerable workers and tax evasion. We think we can become a vital last line of defence against abuses of power. More on this soon.