The position of Lord Chancellor is unique amongst members of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister wants to appoint someone as Chancellor of the Exchequer? Appoint someone from your old dining club at University. However when it comes to the Lord Chancellor it is not that straightforward. The appointment is governed by section 2 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. And that statute lists the qualifications required.
So before we all get a bit gung-ho in decrying the current incumbent’s lack of qualification for the job we should examine his credentials. Section 2 of the Act states that the Lord Chancellor is to be qualified by experience and that “a person may not be recommended for appointment as Lord Chancellor unless he appears to the Prime Minister to be qualified by experience.” Now all of you can just stop right now with your “he isn’t a lawyer, he isn’t qualified at all” catcalls. It does not have to be legal qualifications.
Section 2 (2) tells us the Prime Minister may take into account any of a number different types of experience. Experience as a Minister of the Crown, experience as a member of either House of Parliament, experience as a qualifying practitioner, experience as a teacher of law in a university or other experience that the Prime Minister considers relevant. A cursory glance at our Lord Chancellor’s CV demonstrates he is more than suitably qualified. So you can all stop being mean.
Don’t believe me? Well let’s look at his qualification in each area.
Experience as a Minister of the Crown
He has been a Minister of the Crown before as Minister for Employment. In his time there he had the terrible misfortune that random statisticians released statistics from his Department that were, in turn, misrepresented by sections of the media in a way which supported the direction of his policy. As you can see from this letter he did his very best to avoid such terrible misuse of official data. Valuable experience that he has been able to bring to his current role to make sure the public know the true meaning of any figures that just happen to crop up at vital times.
Experience as a member of either House of Parliament
In recent years the expenses of members of both Houses of Parliament came under scrutiny. The current Lord Chancellor was not alone in facing the scandal that scrutiny of his expenses claims brought. What better experience could there be for a man who ultimately excluded from Legal Aid those who had a household disposable income of £37,000 to face unfounded allegations of wrongdoing? He knows from experience that misunderstandings such as his builder submitting his invoices a year apart due to ill health can be resolved without recourse to expensive lawyers. If such allegations are made and they make it to court then clearly you have brought it on yourself.
Experience as a qualifying practitioner or as a teacher of law in a university
I have lumped these two together as being that humdrum and conventional view of the Lord Chancellor being some sort of “lawyer”. As if that is a good thing. But our Lord Chancellor does know a thing or two about the law. As an MP he has voted for one or two laws. Like the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which he voted in favour of. And demonstrated his full understanding of its implications when he observed B&B owners should have the right to turn away homosexual couples. Or at least he did once the implications for him may have led to him being sacked.
Other experience that the Prime Minister considers relevant
This is difficult to know exactly what was in Dave’s mind. Perhaps he had run out of members of the Bullingdon Club? Who knows? Or perhaps he had been impressed by the former Shadow Home Secretary’s use of stats which was so imaginative in getting his point across. I mean it’s not as if the Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority knows how to use these figures . The Lord Chancellor needs to be so much more creative than this. And don’t forget his experience of working in TV. There is no problem that cannot be solved by comparing it to a TV show. The man who thinks Manchester is just like The Wire? Hell yes put him in charge of the judiciary. We need more go-getters like Judge John Deed. And his experience in business, particularly his knowledge of the benefits of freelancers, is exactly what we need for the person in charge of the PDS.
So as we can see we need to stop playing the man and start playing the ball. This is a fair fight after all. If we had been smeared and the position regarding Legal Aid had been monstrously misrepresented we would have had grounds to grumble. If the MoJ had shown itself unwilling to listen to our concerns then, and only then, would we have any justification for taking drastic action. If the whole justice system had been placed in mortal danger by someone ideologically opposed to scrutiny in the courts then lawyers all over the land would have the duty to shout a protest from the rooftops. Thank Goodness we do not live in such a world.
Anyway, enough of this, I am off to read some Enid Blyton.