So how did it go for us? I don’t care about left, right or centre: us here means lawyers.

Jonathan Goldsmith

Jonathan Goldsmith

The Gazette has already listed which lawyers won or lost a seat. Now the shape of the government is clearer, we have lawyers as prime minister and foreign secretary, and of course – well, it was not always an ‘of course’ under the last government – justice secretary.

We hope as a result that the attacks on lawyers from the government itself will diminish. But the day after the election the Daily Mail couldn’t help itself, with a blaring headline: ‘Final triumph of the New Establishment: Now with a Leftie lawyer in Downing Street, they've seized the last piece of the jigsaw...’.

If ‘lefty lawyer’ is the worst we have to put up with, we have come out of it a good deal better than our colleagues in France, also emerging from their own election campaign.

French lawyers were shocked last week when a far-right website posted a picture of someone being led to a guillotine, with a heading that said: ‘(Very partial) list of lawyers to eliminate’. There then followed the list, but that was not the end of it. The post said that the great majority of lawyers would have to be neutralised, although those listed should be sent to a ditch or ‘disappeared’.

The listed lawyers had earlier published an open letter in the French magazine, Marianne. (As a side note, Marianne is owned by the Czech billionaire, Daniel Křetínský, who is also a lawyer, and whose purchase of our Royal Mail has been much in the news; he is a director and major shareholder of West Ham football club, too.)

The French lawyers headed their letter in Marianne as follows: ‘Lawyers, we are forming a law brigade against the Rassemblement National’ (Rassemblement National (RN) being the National Rally, formerly the National Front, the far-right French party headed by Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella).

There followed a call to arms (‘Our weapons are those of the law’): ‘Faced with the risk that the Rassemblement National and its allies represent for our institutions in the parliamentary elections (...), let us make a promise to defend the law, our Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights’.

They listed specific RN policies that they oppose, some of which have to do with the law, like ‘We will oppose the re-establishment of minimum sentences’, but some of which do not, at least directly: ‘We will oppose the reduction of France's contribution to the European budget’.

The letter is full of ringing statements: ‘We will be there if we have to use the law to annul all unjust decrees and laws. We will be there if we have to condemn all enemies of the rule of law … We will denounce all compromises.’

This raises sharp questions about the role of lawyers if the far right – or indeed the far left, as is nearer to the truth now - is close to power. (And the letter addresses the question of whether RN is far right or not: ‘Let us recall that the attempts to clean up and disguise this party for electoral purposes did not deceive the Council of State, which rejected its request on March 14, 2024, to no longer be classified as “extreme right”’.)

Should lawyers group together in this way to oppose what they see as threats to the rule of law from political parties?

The Paris Bar has referred the threats to lawyers’ lives to the prosecutor’s office. The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) has written to president Macron to demand an investigation, and protection for the lawyers concerned. The French Minister of Justice has already strongly condemned the website’s attack.

There may be more of this coming elsewhere. In the United States, there has been much recent fuss about Project 2025, which are think-tank proposals for a possible future Trump presidency. In the foreword to the basic Project 2025 document, ‘Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise’, there is a sentence which is startlingly similar to the Daily Mail headline quoted at the start of this article:

‘The long march of cultural Marxism through our institutions has come to pass. The federal government is a behemoth, weaponized against American citizens and conservative values, with freedom and liberty under siege as never before.’

Its leader said recently that the US is in the midst of a second American Revolution, that will be bloodless ‘if the left allows it to be’. There may be severe challenges to some lawyers ahead.

It appears we have a breathing space here in the UK before such issues may present themselves to us. We would do well to watch what is happening elsewhere before deciding how lawyers should best respond.


Jonathan Goldsmith is Law Society Council member for EU & International, chair of the Law Society’s Policy & Regulatory Affairs Committee and a member of its board. All views expressed are personal and are not made in his capacity as a Law Society Council member, nor on behalf of the Law Society