Newbie Shadow Solicitor-General takes Twitter fire for getting cold feet over legal aid cuts opposition

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When on the backbenches, barrister Karl Turner wouldn’t shut up about the disastrous demise of the system; now he’s a bit quieter


For a lesson in Machiavellian politics de nos jours, look no further than the recent behaviour of Karl Turner MP.

Lawyer Turner has just had a boost up the greasy pole to the notch of Shadow Solicitor-General, benefiting tangentially from the downfall of Emily Thornberry as Shadow Attorney-General after the human rights barrister’s social media difficulties of a couple of weeks ago.

While on the backbenches, Turner — who himself qualified at the bar in 2005 after reading law at Hull University — made a name as a firebrand critic of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and the Ministry of Justice’s slash-and-burn approach to the legal aid system.

But at the same time, Turner has been an arch — and some might suggest, grovelling — supporter of his party’s Wallace-style leader, Ed Miliband. And now those two positions might be conflicting.

Labour front bench policy regarding the coalition’s axing and gutting of legal aid seems to be summed up along the lines of, it’s really bad, but don’t count on us refinancing the system.

And now that Turner — who did a 2005-09 stint at defunct Hull law firm Max Gold Solicitors before moving on to Wilberforce Chambers in the city — is facing Twitter fire for apparently backpedalling on his views.

Tweeting QC PJ Kriby of Lincoln’s Inn’s Hardwicke Chambers asked this week on the social media site: “… which of legal aid cuts will Labour reverse?”

Came the answer from young Turner – who, with his rectangular spectacles and spiky haircut looks every inch New Labour? Well, silence initially.

But Kirby and others persisted:


Finally the MP — who tells us that as a child he “[pledged] to send my pocket money to support the families of striking miners” — produced this enlightening response: “Patience is a virtue.”

Turner’s promotion comes on the coattails of a mini Labour reshuffle in the wake of the Thornberry brouhaha. Her resignation saw Miliband pluck barrister William Bach from the House of Lords to take the Shadow Attorney role.

Bach — who was the former head of chambers at Leicester set King Street — joins former Liberty chairman Sadiq Khan, the current Shadow Justice Secretary, in spearheading Labour’s legal team into next spring’s general election.

Turner — while likely to be cannon fodder in the campaign — has clearly been rewarded for his loyalty to Miliband. At the end of last month, the Hull MP posted a blog on his website headlined:

“I don’t care if he can eat a bacon sandwich beautifully – it’s policy that matters”.

Indeed, it seems as though Labour treat the Shadow S-G role as something of a sweetie, to be doled out to deserving leadership acolytes as and when deemed fit by the top brass. Turner replaces no-one, as the post hadn’t been filled since 2011, when former then-Dickinson Dees employment solicitor Catherine McKinnell moved from the role to other duties (she’s currently shadowing the Treasury minister).