Michael Mansfield QC talked in tribute to Michael Seifert
by Stephen Hewitt | Published 4 December 2017 | Last updated 2 December 2020
On Thursday 16 November 2017 Michael Mansfield QC gave a public talk “What does it mean to be a socialist lawyer? A tribute to Michael Seifert” in the University of Law in Store Street, London.
Mansfield, President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, which organised the talk, shared memories of Seifert and how he had been influenced by him in a talk and discussion that spanned many topics.
A young woman also looking for Room 101 for the talk when I entered the building had told me that Michael Mansfield does not speak in public very often so it was a “rare treat”.
Mansfield spoke of solidarity and said that Michael Seifert was very good at making contact between people, especially in relation to Cuba. Solidarity “certainly in relation to Grenfell is extremely important”, he said. For some issues you need to connect with other countries. He mentioned pensions and said that for women of a certain age, born in 1954, it depends which half of the year. “I feel strongly about that.”
“The challenges are becoming more difficult” he said, before mentioning fracking, “which is something I feel strongly about.”
Crowdfunding was a positive development, “in the case of the fracking example it's made a huge difference” and he mentioned Polly Higgins and ecocide and said “absolutely staggered by the amount of money they raised”.
He spoke about an event in parliament which he had attended earlier that day, related to mental health. In the context of funding for it, he said “It's like everything else, take your eye off the ball and they'll get away with murder.” He also mentioned, more than once, “a palpable sense of rising anger from the public”.
The name of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
In 2020 the Haldane Society's website noted “The Society was named for Viscount Richard Haldane”, without further explanation.
Richard Burdon Haldane (1856-1928) features prominently in the 2013 book Hidden History the secret origins of the first world war. According to authors Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor he was one of the people who were instrumental in deliberately bringing about that war through lies and subterfuge. He “conspired” (with Edward Grey and Herbert Asquith) to undermine the popular, “radical” and “anti-war” leader of his own party Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who was prime minister from 1906 until his death in 1908.
In 1902 Haldane was appointed to the Privy Council by King Edward VII.
From 1905-1912 he was Secretary of State for War. According to the book, he and Edward Grey “repeatedly lied” to other Cabinet members and to MPs on questions of foreign policy.
Haldane moved the second reading of the Official Secrets Act on 25 July 1911 in the house of lords. He had set up a subcommittee of the Committee for Imperial Defence that had recommended the creation of a national intelligence bureau to operate both domestically and abroad.
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