New Lord Chancellor Michael Gove quotes Lord Denning as he is sworn in at the RCJ

Avatar photo

By Thomas Connelly on

“Be you ever so high, the law is above you”


This afternoon new Justice Secretary Michael Gove has been sworn in at the Royal Courts of Justice in the presence of senior members of the judiciary.

In the process — perhaps in a bid to appeal to law students — Gove quoted Lord Denning in the 1977 case Gouriet v Union of Post Office Workers and Others, stating:

“Be you ever so high, the law is above you.”

Gove, like his immediate predecessor Chris Grayling, isn’t a lawyer. He was handed the role last week after David Cameron and the Conservative party secured their general election win.

The ceremony was held in court four of the RCJ, with Gove apparently opting to enter the building using the judges’ entrance. Top legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg was there, tweeting this photo of the gowned Lord Chancellor flanked by Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson (left) and Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (right).

The trio then went inside and Gove took an oath to respect the rule of law and “provide resources”, in what was a packed courtroom. Rozenberg followed them in — although being in a courtroom he wasn’t able to take any pictures.

Did the oath mean anything? Lawyer and Financial Times journalist David Allen Green was sceptical.

Rozenberg proceeded to report Lord Thomas describing — rather gushingly — Gove’s “love of communication and thirst for ideas” to those assembled.

The newly sworn in Justice Secretary then addressed those in attendance, giving what was apparently a confident speech, without the assistance of notes.

We’ve checked with the Courts and Tribunals Judicial Press Office press office, and at the moment there is no transcript available of the speech. Alongside his Denning line, Gove is quoted by Guardian journalist Owen Bowcott as saying:

“It must be a sorry nation indeed in which the judges themselves agree with politicians 100% of the time … no one in this country should be deprived of their liberty or property without due process of law. Equally important, is the value of freedom of speech.”

When the news broke earlier this month of Gove’s appointment, one individual saw an opportunity and nipped over to Wikipedia to edit the former Education Secretary’s page.

The cheeky editor couldn’t resist poking fun at Gove’s controversial free schools policy, introducing his “flagship policy” of “free chambers”.


‘Free Chambers’? Disgruntled lawyer edits Wikipedia page of new Justice Secretary Michael Gove [Legal Cheek]