Top-job insecurity

Profession guarded in its welcome for new Lord Chancellor

Daniel Winterfeldt
Daniel Winterfeldt

The nicest thing you could say about Tory MP Chris Grayling’s appointment as justice secretary is that it received a lukewarm welcome.

The profession’s first reaction was incredulity that a non-lawyer had got the job. A bit of pop-psychology might lead one to draw all sorts of conclusions about lawyers who find the idea of a layman running the justice department hard to grasp when it is no problem for other professions. Truth is it probably had more to do with the historic role of the Lord Chancellor.

After the shock subsided attention turned to Grayling’s career. And this time the reaction was – well, lukewarm again.

“Justice and human rights issues have not featured highly among Grayling’s interests since he entered Parliament so it’s difficult to know how he will fare,” says Bindmans’ public law head Stephen Grosz.

Back in 2008 Grayling proclaimed he would tear up the Human Rights Act, yet championed proposals to reform how DNA is retained for those not criminally convicted. He also opposed ID cards.

Daniel Winterfeldt, partner at CMS and co-chair of the InterLaw Diversity Forum, is equally ambivalent on Grayling’s diversity credentials.

“His record on equality and LGBT issues, including defending the B&B owners who refused to let a gay couple stay in their hotel (which he later apologised for) […] could be better,” says Winterfeldt.

It may have been a lukewarm reception for Grayling, but at least it wasn’t ice-cold like that Jeremy Hunt got as health secretary.

James Swift