After the particularly cruel combination of a snap general election coinciding with exam season, you may be forgiven for not immediately being aware of the changes arising from the subsequent cabinet reshuffle. One such change is the appointment of a new Lord Chancellor. Liz Truss, who had been widely regarded in the legal sector as not up to the task, has been demoted to chief secretary to the Treasury. In her place, David Lidington is now the Lord Chancellor, the fourth person to hold the title in the space of just over two years.
Who is David Lidington?
You may be forgiven for having not heard of David Lindington, not being a particularly well known cabinet minister in contrast to others. Mr Lidington was educated at The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, Elstree, Hertfordshire, followed by Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he took an honours degree in history and a PhD in 1988 entitled “The enforcement of the penal statutes at the court of the Exchequer c.1558-c.1576” on Elizabethan history.
He has been the conservative MP for the safe seat of Aylesbury since 1992, having long been involved in conservative politics since his time at university as the chairman of Cambridge University Conservative Association. In government, he was appointed to the post of Minister for Europe in 2010 and is the longest serving Minister for Europe ever. Indeed, he continued to hold this post until his recent promotion to Lord Chancellor.
His time in Parliament, much like any MP, has not been without controversies. He is known for his socially conservative views regarding sexuality and has a record of voting against laws relating to discrimination, civil partnerships, and same sex marriage. He has also been involved in the expenses scandal, having reportedly claimed £115,891 in expenses in one year, almost double his salary.
He also has a claim to fame outside of Westminster, having won the University Challenge championship in 1979, and the 2002 University Challenge champion of champions tournament.
What does this mean for the law?
Immediate response to the appointment by legal commentators has been positive. After a series of serious missteps, news of the removal of Liz Truss from the position was well received. He is also the fourth Lord Chancellor to hold the post without any legal qualification (all four having served under this government), however his academic background in history has been seen as a good foundation.
Given his non legal background, he unsurprisingly has little connections to the legal sector. His voting record on legal aid is in line with the Conservative policy, and so subsequently he has voted for restrictions on legal aid. He is also on record as having voted against a Labour amendment to the Human Rights Act 1998, however he has gone on record in the Financial Times in 2015 as being a strong supporter of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Given Teresa May’s pre-election pledge to change Human Rights law if they ‘get in the way’ of her anti terror initiatives, it will remain to be seen what stance he will take should the issue be raised.
Upon appointment Mr Lidington released a statement:
“I am pleased and honoured to have been appointed as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.
Together with my ministerial team, I look forward to working with the hard-working and dedicated staff in our prisons and probation services, in our courts and tribunals and with people right across the justice system.
Democracy and freedom are built on the rule of law, and are protected by a strong and independent judiciary. I look forward to taking my oath as Lord Chancellor, and to working with the Lord Chief Justice and his fellow judges in the months ahead, to ensure that justice is fairly administered and robustly defended.”
Joe Beet – OULS Editor