Talking points: Legal aid, the standing office, and what makes America ‘weird’?


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The Independent Online


Don’t knock the Lib Dems

In the world of UK politics, Philip Collins, writing in the Times (£), goes against the grain and lavishes praise on Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems. Why? They prevented the Tory right from taking hold of the steering wheel. What this truculent bunch would have done with more power, says Collins, sends a shudder down the spine: namely slash green taxes, cut welfare harder, give more tax-breaks to the wealthy, make progress to abolishing human rights legislation and take a tougher stance on immigration.

It’s not all defence we should thank the Lib Dems for, either. Progress on raising the income tax threshold, and childcare, pays tribute to the influence of this much-maligned party in the Coalition.

Innocent? That’ll just be your life-savings, then

Nigel Evans has had to pay £130,000 in legal fees, despite being found innocent on all charges of rape and sexual assault. Ironically, the Deputy Speaker admits he may have voted for cuts to legal aid.

Writing in Lib Dem Voice, Anthony Hook, a former criminal barrister, points out that it was Labour who first brought in “ punitive means-testing” for legal aid – which the Coalition has kept (Evans did not qualify for legal aid as he earns more than £37,500 a year). Labour initially cut legal aid, then realised that public money was instead flowing to Defence Costs Order payments – handed to innocent defendants. So, says Hook, they cut those too.

“That is how we have arrived at an Orwellian situation where Nigel Evans, and thousands of defendants every year, are caused huge financial harm even if they are not guilty. They should get their costs back. It is only fair.”

Get up, stand up: it’s the office of the future

Constantly sitting down is bad for your health. And where do most people sit down the most? In the office, where you might be sitting right now. The BBC runs a feature today on the pioneers of a sit-stand movement: they show off (expensive) desks that can adjust between sitting and standing.

The Victorians, says one ergonomics expert, knew better. Clerks in the 19th century could stand at their desk and “moved around a lot more”.

What makes America weird?

An imgur user has stepped into the tricky territory of trans-Atlantic relationships. Here, OiskyPoisky offers the 20 ‘ Weirdest Things about America that Americans Don’t Realize Are Weird’, including “everything being designed around cars” and “ the sheer amount of commercials on the television, and their lack of quality”. Your move, Yanks.