Lady Hale on Trump, Beyoncé comparisons and whether the Lord Chancellor must be a lawyer

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By Polly Botsford on

BBC 5 Live interview fails to break Supreme Court president’s ever-judicious stance

Image credit: Beyoncé (Rocbeyonce)

Introduced as the ‘Beyoncé of the Law’ in a probing interview on the Emma Barnett Show on BBC Radio yesterday, Lady Hale kept her cool in the face of a number of controversial questions.

On the lit-fuse-like subject of whether or not the role of Lord Chancellor should have to be filled by a lawyer, citing specifically the damning criticisms of non-lawyers Chris Grayling and Liz Truss, Hale was at her most controlled.

In what may well become a famously long interlude of silence, there was a very, very, very long pause before she said anything at all. Eventually, she stated: “I don’t know that I want to express a view one way or another about that. It is the character and personality of the individual that matters more than the professional qualifications.”

Barnett, who has been labelled the next Jeremy Paxman for her interview style, repeatedly tried to engage Hale on political matters. For instance, she tried to get Hale to take a stance on Donald Trump’s recent visit: revealing that Hale had had a top-table seat at the state banquet for Trump (an interesting fact that had up until yesterday not been on the radar), Barnett asked if Hale had considered refusing to attend as some politicians had. Hale said (with what sounded like considerable relief):

“We are not politicians. We have no party political views that we can and should express…There was no political message to be got by our attending such an event as that.”

Barnett also referenced the fact that the Supreme Court has had to make a number of decisions (through hearing judicial review cases) on the government’s austerity policy and at one point directly asked the Supreme Court president whether “austerity has worked”.

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Hale would not be drawn: “I don’t think I can comment on that… What we do is look in great detail at the government’s declared aims in doing what they have done and at the evidence to see whether [it] supports the aptness of what they have done to meet those aims.”

Barnett probed what Hale thought of being labelled an “elite”, referring to the whole debacle over the Brexit Article 50 case during which high court judges were labelled ‘enemies of the people’ by the Daily Mail.

In typical lawyer fashion, she immediately answered back with a question, that of definition: “What do you mean by ‘elite’?” Hale then went on to describe the Supreme Court’s push towards transparency and accessibility by making hearings and decisions freely available to the public.

On female equality, a subject that Hale has been more vocal about, she was asked whether or not she wanted her successor as president of the Supreme Court to be a woman as well, to which she only replied:

“I always hope that there will continue to be the progress that has been made largely in this century with the proportion of women in the judiciary at all levels but of course particularly in the Supreme Court.”

Perhaps the best bit of the whole interview was right at the end when Barnett suggested that Hale “100% should” listen to Beyoncé, her namesake, before going into court. Hale laughed and replied: “I will go away and think about that very carefully.”

You can listen to the full interview on BBC Sounds.

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