Ex-Macfarlanes lawyer David Gauke has been promoted to Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice in Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle. He is believed to be the first solicitor to become Lord Chancellor.
Gauke replaces David Lidington, who has in turn been promoted to Cabinet Office minister and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
While – at least until recently – Lord Chancellors have traditionally been barristers, Gauke is a qualified solicitor. He studied at College of Law Chester and trained at Richards Butler (now Reed Smith), before working at Macfarlanes. He was elected MP for South West Hertfordshire in 2005 and moves from his current role as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
In having a legal qualification of any kind, Gauke differs from his four immediate predecessors in the Justice Department.
Chris Grayling became the first non-lawyer Lord Chancellor for over 400 years when he replaced Kenneth Clarke QC in 2012. He was followed by another three MPs with no legal qualifications in Michael Gove, Liz Truss and David Lidington, who took over from Truss in June last year.
Truss’s time in the department was largely viewed negatively by lawyers, and she came under fire for not more strongly defending judges following attacks on the judiciary by the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Daily Express.
Lidington’s appointment was cautiously welcomed by the profession; however, he has had little time to put his stamp on the role before what is essentially a promotion to deputy Prime Minister. While he has not been given the title of First Secretary of State, he will stand in for Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Gauke is the third Justice Secretary in May’s time as Prime Minister, the fourth since 2015, and the sixth in eight years of Conservative government – a fact that in itself has raised the ire of lawyers.
The justice system has been massively de-prioritised by the last few governments.
No better indication than the regular almost careless turnover of Justice Secretaries: Ken Clarke, Chris Grayling, Liz Truss, Michael Gove, David Liddington all since 2010 and now… who?
— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) January 8, 2018
If this is so, it demonstrates Theresa May’s utter contempt for the justice system. An inconvenient appendage of government, to be shuffled and filled as whim and caprice demand. https://t.co/dRrG95rHrM
— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) January 8, 2018
— Jack Evans (@jackcevans) January 8, 2018
|Lord Chancellor||Start date||End date||Length of tenure|
|Kenneth Clarke QC||12 May 2010||4 Sep 2012||846 days|
|Chris Grayling||4 Sep 2012||9 May 2015||977 days|
|Michael Gove||9 May 2015||14 July 2016||431 days|
|Liz Truss||14 July 2016||11 June 2017||332 days|
|David Lidington||11 June 2017||8 Jan 2018||211 days|
well this doesn't augur very well – David Gauke our new Justice Minister does not seem to be great fan of Human Rights https://t.co/jwe7cSWbmb
— Daphne Romney QC (@DaphneRomneyQC) January 8, 2018
Congratulations to David Gauke as new LC. It would be so good if he demonstrated asap his commitment to rule of law, protection of judges and true access to Justice. He would find warm support from lawyers but more importantly from those who can no longer enforce their rights.
— Charlie Falconer (@LordCFalconer) January 8, 2018
— The Law Society (@TheLawSociety) January 8, 2018