A Lord Chancellor equal to the fight

After 10 years at the helm the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay, is to step down at the General Election in May. And what an eventful 10 years it has been. Law reform has taken on a new meaning with Lord Mackay.

Lord Woolf says Lord Mackay has earned a place in the history books – and he should know. The Lord Chancellor gave him instructions to go out and overhaul the civil justice system. The result has been one of the most far-reaching legal reforms of recent years.

And this is perhaps where the key to Lord Mackay's true worth as a Lord Chancellor really lies. His open mind.

He has not been shy to change things and to introduce his own personal principles to a wider audience. His revamping of the matrimonial system, for example, is known to be closely allied to his firm moral ideals and desire for fairness.

Of course, he has not been without his critics. Where there is a strong mind there is always another, just as stubborn and ready for a fight. The Law Society has never been afraid to stand up against him. Other groups, unhappy with the cuts to the legal aid budget or the astonishing increases in court fees, have rightly stood their ground and opposed him.

But you always got the feeling that the Lord Chancellor was equal to the fight and secretly quite inspired by it.

It is generally agreed that he is a lawyer first and a politician second. It is just an unfortunate part of the post he has held for the past 10 years that politics and dogma are inescapable.

The jury is still out as to just how subservient he has been when it came to the party – or, more accurately, Treasury – line.

One thing is for sure: subservient or not, Mackay was not afraid to go where others feared to tread.