Gove in, Grayling out: what does the future look like?

Michael Gove at Policy Exchange delivering his keynote speech 'The Importance of Teaching'
Michael Gove at Policy Exchange delivering his keynote speech ‘The Importance of Teaching’

Michael Gove has been appointed as the new Justice Secretary in the latest cabinet reshuffle, replacing the outgoing Chris Grayling.

Grayling, who is set to become Leader of the House of Commons, had originally stated his desire to remain as Justice Secretary, describing it as his ‘main choice’.

Grayling – re-elected to the safe Conservative seat of Epsom and Ewell with anincreased majority told the Epsom Guardian that he was ‘happy to do whatever David Cameron asks me to do’ but that justice secretary was his ‘main choice’.

Fraser Nelson profiled Michael Gove, legal reformer in the Spectator. ‘His job will be to clean up the mess of the Human Rights Act,’ the magazine’s editor wrote. ‘In the Department for Education he saw for himself how the rule of law was degenerating into something different: the rule by lawyers.’

Nelson offered this extract from Gove’s 2006 book (Celsius 7/7) about the London bombings as an insight into his likely approach to lawyers.

‘The problems we face are compounded by the dogged refusal of too many in the legal establishment to put the defence of our civilisation ahead of the defence of the traditions with which their profession has grown comfortable.’
Michael Gove

The Guardian reminded readers of ‘contentious statements on justice policy, including calling for the return of hanging and accusing the Stephen Lawrence inquiry of bearing the “whiff of Salem”‘. They dug up this quote from an article by the Times (calling for the return of the death penalty):

‘Were I ever alone in the dock I would not want to be arraigned before our flawed tribunals, knowing my freedom could be forfeit as a result of political pressures. I would prefer a fair trial, under the shadow of the noose.’
Michael Gove

The most sensitive issue in the Lord Chancellor’s in-tray was delivering on the manifesto commitment to scrap the Human Rights Act, wrote legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg in the Guardian (here). Barrister Matthew Scott, blogging for the Daily Telegraph, called it a ‘Gordian knot’ of a problem which would ‘require either exceptional skill and patience to unpick, or a dramatic flash of the legislative sword to sever’ (here).

‘Widespread relief’ at Grayling’s departure had been ‘tempered by apprehension’ that Gove would ‘treat lawyers in the same way as he treated teachers’, wrote Rozenberg. He continued: ‘That is not my prediction: the education system needed top-down reform and the legal system does not.’

‘The lawyers will forgive Gove for not being one of them if he approaches his new role with a measure of humility and sensitivity. He has every chance to repair the blunders of his predecessor while upholding the principles of compassionate, centrist Conservatism.’
Joshua Rozenberg

Meanwhile, Lord Falconer – Tony Blair’s Lord Chancellor – will reprise the role and face Gove. He replaces Sadiq Khan who has resigned from the shadow cabinet and is expected to run for Mayor of London next year.

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