David Gauke

Very soon we will know if Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson will be our next Prime Minister.

If it’s all but certain Johnson will win, the only thing more certain is that he will be looking for a new Lord Chancellor. The current incumbent in the post, former Macfarlanes solicitor David Gauke, has become the central figure of the ‘Gaukeward Squad’, a group of senior Conservative MPs attempting to prevent No Deal. He gave a demob-happy speech at the annual judges’ dinner in the City earlier this month predicting his own departure. If there was any doubt, he abstained in yesterday’s vote on proroguing Parliament, contributing to the Government’s defeat: the gesture of a man resigned to being off the front benches.

But who could replace him? Here’s The Lawyer’s highly-sophisticated take on some of the options available. 

David Mundell

Current role: Secretary of State for Scotland

Legally qualified? Yes, a former senior solicitor at BT

Backed: Michael Gove

Why possible: A legally-qualified safe pair of hands

Why unlikely: The trouble about shuffling Mundell is that the Tories have a distinct lack of senior talent to take his place as Secretary of State for Scotland. From 2005 to 2017 he was the only Conservative Scottish MP. Since the last election there are now 13 but aside from Mundell the rest are mainly junior backbench figures. Barring a scandal, he’s pretty unmoveable.

The Lawyer’s odds, not in association with PaddyPower: 100/1

Michael Gove

Current role: Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Legally qualified? No

Backed: Himself

Why possible: Briefly Justice Secretary under David Cameron and generally thought to have shown promise, though in that respect he was fortunate to follow Chris Grayling in the post. During his time in office as Lord Chancellor, Gove pledged to fix a “creaking and dysfunctional” court system, but mostly concentrated on reforming prisons rather than attacking the Human Rights Act, as some lawyers feared he would do after the Conservative Party won an outright majority in 2015.

Why unlikely: Could either be cast into the wilderness as revenge for his backstabbing shenanigans after the referendum – or alternatively drawn close to the copious Johnson bosom, in which case he may have his eyes on one of the Great Offices of State instead.

Odds: 50/1

Gavin Williamson

Current role: MP for South Staffordshire

Legally qualified? No

Backed: Boris Johnson

Why possible: Sacked as Defence Secretary in May for leaking sensitive information (he denies it) and technically in disgrace, but a key Johnson ally tipped to make a return to the front line of politics under his premiership. One of the biggest Cabinet positions is probably out of reach for now but Justice would allow Williamson to continue his hard-man act, focusing on law and order rather than the armed forces.

Why unlikely: Is he too tarnished for the role of Lord Chancellor which – in theory if not always in practice – feels like it should go to a character of utmost respectability?

Odds: 30/1

Matt Hancock

Current role: Secretary of State for Health

Legally qualified? No

Backed: Himself, then Boris Johnson

Why possible: A brief leadership campaign petered out; now Hancock has gone full BoJo in what looks like a not-very-subtle attempt to get a big job.

Why unlikely: Already Health Secretary, Hancock may be hoping for a bigger reward for his sucking-up than the DoJ.

Odds: 20/1

Jake Berry

Current role: Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth

Legally qualified? Yes, a solicitor who trained in the City before moving back to Manchester to practice as a property lawyer at Halliwells.

Backed: Boris Johnson

Why possible: Ticks the right boxes: Johnson ally, legal background, in line for promotion. 

Why unlikely: Not a big enough figure yet?

Odds: 14/1

James Brokenshire

Current role: Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government

Legally qualified? Yes, Brokenshire is a former Jones Day lawyer

Backed: Boris Johnson

Why possible: As well as being a qualified lawyer, he has held a couple of Secretary of State posts – Northern Ireland and Local Government – without actually being forced to resign in disgrace. Justice doesn’t have the cache it used to but would probably represent a promotion.

Why unlikely: Despite voting for the withdrawal agreement, twice, and voting not to take no-deal off the table, he is considered a bit too Remainery by true Brexit believers. But that may not matter too much in the Justice department.

Odds: 12/1

Dominic Raab

Current role: MP for Esher & Walton

Legally qualified? Yes, qualified at Linklaters. Critic of the Human Rights Act, calling it “flawed,” and has been vocal on the topic of human rights generally

Backed: Himself, then Boris Johnson

Why possible: Now a high-profile figure, the former Brexit Secretary has legal qualifications, even if it can’t have amounted to much more than a lot of photocopying as a Linklaters trainee in the late 90s (to be fair, he did a secondment at Liberty too). Has already spent time in the Justice Department as an Under-Secretary of State, then a Minister, between 2015 and 2018. Gets on with Johnson and will probably be in Cabinet roles for years to come – elections permitting.

Why unlikely: Has positioned himself on the hard end of the Brexit spectrum, which might mean he goes into a more overtly Brexit-focused role.

Odds: 10/1

Other contenders

Liz Truss: Former Justice Sec and Boris ally angling for a big job; Michael Fallon: Boris chum and former Defence Secretary in line for a return; Priti Patel: Right-winger with strong views on crime and punishment; Jeremy Wright QC: Only silk currently in Cabinet, but a Remainer who initially supported Sajid Javid, then Jeremy Hunt, in the leadership election.