Lord Chancellor David Gauke continued his charm offensive with the judiciary - along with the centrist wing of his party - last night with an outspoken attack on ‘populist politicians’ fomenting a ‘growing distrust of institutions’. His speech, at the annual judges’ dinner in the City of London, has been universally interpreted as an attack on Conservative leadership front-runner Boris Johnson MP.
’A willingness by politicians to say what they think the public want to hear, and a willingness by large parts of the public to believe what they are told by populist politicians, has led to a deterioration in our public discourse,’ Gauke said. ’This has contributed to a growing distrust of our institutions – whether that be parliament, the civil service, the mainstream media or the judiciary.’
In a reference to the Daily Mail’s 2016 headline following the Brexit court challenge, Gauke said that ’Those grappling with complex problems are not viewed as public servants but as engaged in a conspiracy to seek to frustrate the will of the public. They are “enemies of the people”.’
He added: ’Our judiciary has a reputation for intellectual rigour, careful consideration of the arguments, and a serious-minded determination to each decision based on what is right and not necessarily what is superficially popular. I am not sure that all politicians have the same reputation.’
Predicting his own imminent removal under a new prime minister, Gauke reminded the audience that he was a veteran compared with some of his predecessors in the role. ’I am the first lord chancellor in a while to have served long enough to deliver two of these speeches,’ Gauke said. While his predecessor-but-one Michael Gove also achieved that, he left the government the following week when Theresa May took office. ’How times have changed,’ Gauke said. 'I might only have three weeks.’
In his speech, the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, went out of his way to thank the lord chancellor along with the prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer, for this year's 'interim settlement' boosting High Court judges' pay.
Meanwhile the lord mayor of London, Peter Estlin, added his voice to a chorus of enthusiasm for new technology. ’For the UK to remain a leading global provider of legal services, we must ensure our legal sector matches this global trend, driving innovation and modernising our infrastructure to enable our judiciary to cater for the clients of the digital age.’
He said that the new Combined Courts Facility planned for Fleet St in the City would lead the way. ’A partnership between Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service and the City of London Corporation, this new court will be dedicated to tackling cybercrime, fraud and economic crime, demonstrating our ability to deal with the changing nature of crime in the 21st century,’ Estlin said.