David who? Theresa May selects relatively unknown non-lawyer to replace embattled Liz Truss as new Justice Secretary

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By Thomas Connelly on

*Googles David Lidington*

It was raised eyebrows all round yesterday afternoon as Prime Minister Theresa May punted for a relatively unknown MP with no legal background to become the new Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary.

David Lidington, a Tory MP for Aylesbury since 1992, studied history as an undergraduate at Cambridge’s Sidney Sussex College, before going on to complete a PhD in 1988. Interestingly, the title of his PhD — “The enforcement of the penal statutes at the court of the Exchequer c.1558-c.1576” — appears to be his only connection with law.

Spending the early part of his career at large multinationals including BP and Rio Tinto, Lidington — a former University Challenge champion — made the move into politics in the late 80s. He spent three years as special advisor to the then Home Secretary Douglas Hurd before becoming minister for Europe in 2010. He spent six years in the role, and regularly spoke out against Brexit.

However, our mystery man’s voting history may leave some lawyers concerned. The website TheyWorkForYou shows how MPs voted on particular issues. It reveals that Lidington voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act 1998, restricting the scope of legal aid and limiting fees paid to solicitors in no-win no-fee cases. The website also says Lidington generally voted against equal gay rights.

Lidington’s surprise promotion has received a mixed response on social media. Legal affairs journalist and Legal Cheek contributor Joshua Rozenberg seemed optimistic about the appointment:

Elsewhere, lawyer and journalist David Allen Green — echoing Rozenberg’s positivity — described Lidington’s background as a “good start”:

While others, including ourselves, didn’t have a clue who Lidington was:

Commenting on his appointment, Lidington said:

Democracy and freedom are built on the rule of law, and are protected by a strong and independent judiciary. I look forward to taking my oath as Lord Chancellor, and to working with the Lord Chief Justice and his fellow judges in the months ahead, to ensure that justice is fairly administered and robustly defended.

As focus shifts towards our new Justice Sec, spare a thought for poor old Liz Truss. The first female Lord Chancellor ever, Truss — who, like Lidington, has no legal background — lasted just 11 months in the job, the shortest tenure since the post was created. She has now been demoted to Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Are we surprised? The embattled ex-Cabinet minister was recently criticised by the Lord Chief Justice, the head of the judiciary, for not understanding new rules concerning pre-recorded evidence in rape cases. Truss was also lambasted for her mealy-mouthed response to the ‘ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE’ headline during the Article 50 High Court hearing. This controversy, and more, led Rozenberg to predict Truss would not last a year in the job.

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