Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.
October 18, 2021 – Lewis Carroll


And so, another Lord Chancellor bites the dust… Didn’t do anything wrong and was very much liked and respected by lawyers and politicians alike. It was just that his post was needed to give to a cabinet minister who had fallen from favour. My diary is littered with fallen Lord Chancellors. It all seemed to start when someone had the bright idea to turn this age-old office, one of the great offices of state and formerly occupied by very senior lawyers, from a bridgehead between the Executive and the Judiciary and a source of counsel to Prime Ministers without the menace of political ambition, to being a government ministry – involving no necessary legal qualifications or any necessary legal experience – with even the decent ones being moved around like counters in a children’s game.

Just to update the statistics – there were 26 appointments of Lord Chancellor between 1900 and 2000 (including one or two who served more than once). We have had ten Lord Chancellors between 2000 and the present, nine of whom succeeded Lord Falconer (the last old-style Lord Chancellor) from 2007. At this rate of attrition, we can expect to see way in excess of 50 by the end of this century. Will law students of the future remember the names of Truss, Grayling and Raab as we did with Haldane, Birkenhead, Hailsham and Mackay and, indeed, most of the list of 20th century Chancellors? Worse still, just as the legal profession discovers a good and respected Lord Chancellor of the new kind, he or she is whipped away on some political pretext.

Apart from genuine sympathy for the latest and respected victim of this form of political dumping, there is an ominous feeling that groundhog day is approaching. It came home to me sitting in a local Bar mess with Gerald Keyne, a barrister I have known since we were at Bar school. There wasn’t any food to eat and the coffee tasted as if it had been stored in a diesel tank before hitting the coffee jug, but at least the Bar mess was open.

‘It’s all going to happen again,’ said Gerald. I misunderstood him. ‘Another conviction?’ I asked. Gerald did not have much luck with juries nowadays. Fortunately, he misunderstood me, too. ‘I wouldn’t say it’s a conviction,’ he said, ‘more of a horrible feeling. They’re spending money like there is no tomorrow and very soon they are going to realise they can’t go on raising taxes or just printing it. Then it will be…’ ‘Spending cuts,’ I finished. ‘Spending cuts,’ he repeated. ‘And what will they cut?’ he went on. ‘Heroic front-line medical staff, struggling teachers, those defending the country, police officers or…’ ‘Us,’ I finished. ‘Us,’ he echoed. Popping back to Chambers after I had picked up some indigestion tablets to counter the effects of the coffee, I saw the decorators on ladders painting our outside windows. Had we been premature with the redecorating plans? I tried to remember the budget.

Inside, I ducked several buckets of gooey looking substances but managed to catch my heel on some dust cover and went sprawling up the stairs. Perhaps this was a good omen. My mother always said falling upstairs was good luck and she had amazing success winning raffles. There was a sound coming from my room of someone coughing violently. I found an old mask in my pocket and put it on. It was Hetty Briar-Pitt. ‘It’s not COVID,’ she said, through choking and coughing. I felt like asking her to take a lateral-flow test there and then except I did not have one on me. Clutching her throat, she said: ‘It’s the paint. I’m choking.’ I rushed her to a nearby coffee bar where the coffee was much nicer than that at court, but still not quite what my stomach wanted.

‘I just had to come to London,’ she said. ‘You can’t imagine what it’s like in the country. We have had petrol shortages, shops have bare shelves and there is a huge risk we won’t get any turkeys for Christmas.’ I was about to say we had our own issues: we too had petrol shortages, I haven’t been able to get my favourite liqueur for love nor money and it was hard to find a decent restaurant open at the weekends. She had already sped on, however. ‘And my horses, William, can you imagine how difficult it is to feed them?’ I could not imagine it at all as it happened. I was sure that horses ate grass. Surely there wasn’t a supply-chain shortage of that too?