Labour MP and London mayoral hopeful Diane Abbott (pictured) criticised her own party’s pre-election proposal to sell off judges’ lodges and said legal aid cuts undermine diversity in the profession, as she urged politicians to give more respect to access to justice and the rule of law.

Giving the annual Fiona Woolf lecture in Chancery Lane last night, Abbott said that although the law is ‘at the heart of the parliamentary process’ politicians appear to take the rule of law too lightly.

As an example she accused Labour of putting the fight to cut costs over common sense when they she came up with the idea to sell off judges’ lodges. ‘It didn’t occur to them that the money they might save might soon be eaten up by Premier Inns,’ she said.

She also criticised previous Labour, Conservative and coalition governments for cuts to legal aid, which she said drove many high street solicitors out of business. 

‘This is a blow not just for access to justice but a blow to diversity in the profession because many of the high street solicitors in Hackney and in London were led by ethnic minority lawyers,’ she said.

Dame Fiona Woolf, partner at CMS Cameron McKenna and former Law Society president and lord mayor, spoke of her work building ‘the business case’ for increasing diversity in the legal profession.

‘If everyone is from the same background, who is going to have new ideas and challenge the establishment think?’ she asked.

She urged everyone to be ‘more audacious’ in pushing for increased diversity in the profession.