As political leaders once again seek a popular mandate, elements of the law will feature heavily in general election campaigning. But lawyers and the legal system will not.
Conservatives aim to ‘fix’ our crammed and creaking prisons with little joined-up thinking on criminal justice. Elsewhere, the governing party talks a lot of its commitment to ‘justice’ in the round – while striving to involve legal representatives and the courts as little as possible.
The Liberal Democrats, when in coalition, might have been expected to dig in hard on matters where justice was at stake. But defending the Human Rights Act was the limit of that commitment. The party lost support from lawyers when it backed ‘secret courts’ and waved through savage legal aid cuts.
Labour opposed such cuts when the axe was hovering. But after it fell, the party avoided firm commitments. Its best legal minds are absorbed with Brexit, though here it decided against capitalising on court judgments that went against the government.
It is of course stating the obvious that the rule of law is the bedrock of a functioning democracy. And in politically contested arenas like immigration, employment (roundtable, page 16), trade, arbitration and crime, the law and people working in it underpin the effective implementation of public policy. This is too often overlooked.