To the thinktank Politeia to hear a speech on fighting modern day slavery. A very good speech it was, too.
But Obiter was also interested in the speaker. The event was a rare public outing for one of our less visible law officers, Oliver Heald (pictured). Since his appointment as solicitor general in September last year, the Conservative MP for North East Hertfordshire has kept a low profile. Unkind colleagues have even asked whether the post, dating from 1461, is needed at all.
Obiter cautions against hasty abolition – we are still living with the consequences of Tony Blair’s cack-handed attempt to do away with the lord chancellor – but some modernisation is certainly in order. Right up to this century, solicitors general were all male, usually with a knighthood, often with a double-barrelled moniker and – despite the job title – nearly always a barrister. Harriet Harman (2001-05) and Vera Baird (2007-10) finally broke the gender mould, but are both barristers. So is Heald and his immediate predecessor, Edward Garnier.
Hence, Obiter’s modest proposal: a constitutional convention that, in future, the office of solicitor general is held by, er, a solicitor. Campaign badges and T-shirts are in the works.