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Cabinet reshuffle: Attorney General Geoffrey Cox gets the sack

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Barrister resigns ‘at the PM’s request’

Geoffrey Cox QC

Boris Johnson has sacked his Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, as part of a Cabinet reshuffle today.

Taking to Twitter to announce the news, Cox said that he was “leaving the Government at the PM’s request”.

The commercial lawyer became Attorney General in July 2018 under Theresa May and shot to prominence with a barnstorming pro-Brexit speech at Conservative Party conference a few months later.

Cox had been widely tipped for the sack under Johnson, with the Mail Online saying yesterday “there have been reports that Number 10 does not believe Mr Cox is a ‘team player'”.

In his resignation letter today, the Thomas More Chambers barrister said that he would be returning to the back benches (and no doubt his lucrative private practice).

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But Cox used his final day in the job to put the wind up human rights lawyers.

Speaking at the Institute for Government think tank yesterday, Cox complained about the “judicialisation of politics”, arguing that “there are a group of cases where you could argue that the courts have gone into areas that more legitimately would be decided by elected representatives”.

The Johnson administration has promised to set up a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission to “consider the relationship between Government, Parliament and the courts”. Some lawyers worry that it would try to put the government above the law, although Cox stressed that the idea was for moderate reforms rather than a wholesale attack on judicial review.

Cox, who did not deny rumours that he is in line to run the Commission, also set some hares running on judicial appointments, which is “certainly one area that the Commission will be looking at”.

The outgoing AG stressed that the government had “no desire to see politically appointed judges”, but floated the idea of politicians interviewing candidates for the Supreme Court as takes place in Canada.

“In Canada for appointments for the Supreme Court there is a committee of the Canadian Parliament that will carry out interviews”, Cox said. “In our country it could be a joint committee of the House of Lords and House of Commons operating under clear guidance; there would be rules as to the questions that could be asked. What it would lend is transparency to a position which people have seen has enormous power”.

He added: “Certainly nobody’s talking about politically appointed judges or US-style appointment hearings. The committee I’m speaking of wouldn’t have the power to appoint, it would simply be a question of interviewing — as indeed judges now appear before committees in the House”.

UPDATE: Friday, 14 February: 9:09am

Downing Street has confirmed Suella Braverman, barrister and MP for Fareham, will replace Cox as Attorney General.

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34 Comments

Anon

This is only a bad thing because somehow the replacement will be worse. Cox’s sole quality was the tenor of his voice.

(22)(3)

Anonymous

Much worse. Boris will only appoint yes puppets. At least Cox exercised some judgement when giving opinions.

(6)(7)

Anon

“Judgement [sic]”? As in his advice re prorogation?

(10)(2)

Oh dear

That’s the correct spelling of judgement.

(14)(10)

Pedant

Judgement with the ‘e’ in the middle is correct in that context.

(8)(10)

Anon

No. It’s without an e in both contexts.

Jean Millais

You’ve no idea what his advice was. It has not been published. Just partial leaks.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

As the poster of 2.05, let me explain the “e” to 2.09. It is a word that spawns much debate, but the better convention in England among lawyers is that “judgment” not “judgement” is used to refer to a decision or ruling of a Court. One can use either form of the word for the more generalised term of the outcome of the exercise of a thought process but most commentators prefer “judgement” to distinguish the two technical usages. In that regard my use of “judgement” is beyond reproach, and your attempted criticism of it shows more about your ignorance than anything else. Do not worry, you’ll learn these things once you get your degree and enter the real world.

(20)(34)

You've been

Lawyered

(4)(3)

Harsh but fair

“…….but most commentators prefer “judgement” to distinguish the two technical usages.”

Evidence, please.

I think you are making this up. And you write as if you are state school and non-Oxbridge.

(20)(7)

GG

Oh come off it, Oxbridge here and happy to confirm “judgement” in the sense of thought process is the correct British English.

You may accept American bastardisation, your betters do not.

Anon

Evidence, please?

Reminds me of the gaoled or jailed debate on LC...

The amount of people that do not understand the difference between the words is surprising. An example of the proper use of judgement is provided by the Judicial Appointments Commission:

‘Exercising judgement is about how you make sure your decisions are right, incisive, fair and legally sound.’

Link: https://www.judicialappointments.gov.uk/choosing-best-examples-your-selfassessment

Judgment – is the formal document which records the judge’s ruling.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

I see that even the JAC gets it wrong.

Anonymous

“Cox exercised good judgement in his response to the Court of Appeal’s latest judgment.” Those pontificating about the “e” seem to be unaware of the prevailing convention within the English legal profession.

Anon

Evidence of such a convention?

Realist

Good. He was hopelessly out of his depth as AG. As a criminal barrister, he rarely encountered the law and was simply used to booming away at juries. As AG, you actually have to possess forensic skills and be adept at legal analysis, and GC was found wanting in his legal advice to HMG time and again. And addressing the Commons as if they were a jury was never going to be effective; he just came accross as patronising and smug.

The problem is that politics no longer attracts high calibre members of the Bar, so the Law Officers are taken from a poor pool of candidates. Only Lucy Frazer QC, who had a serious commercial chancery practice at South Square and who did not take Silk ex officio on appointment as SG, is suitable as AG from the Commons. If she is not appointed, Boris should give a peerage to one of the many very distinguished Conservative-supporting commercial or chancery Silks and appoint him or her AG.

(43)(11)

Anon

You’re such a smug twat.

(7)(16)

Anon

And you are a fool. Now run along.

(8)(2)

Jean Millais

Sour grapes? Cox may be many things but his record as a silk which is easily found is not consistent with the picture you paint. It includes some quite impressive cases in the highest courts.

(4)(4)

Jean Millais

How was he “found wanting”? Seems to me his published advice was pretty good

(2)(2)

Anon

His advice was wrong. See the decision of the Supreme Court. His judgment in holding back his Brexit advice was also found to be wrong; and when ordered to disclose it, it was clear that the summary he had disclosed offered nothing more than the full document. So resisting it was pointless and brought the government into disrepute.

There were other barristers who were better qualified for the role, including Lucy Frazer QC, who has been mentioned by another commentator.

Cox’s problem is that he wasn’t used to dealing with the law and making complex legal and tactical judgments; as a criminal barrister, he spent his time speaking at juries and dealing with unsophisticated clients who just swallow, uncritically, the advice you give them. This did not equip him at all well for the role of AG, which requires first rate forensic and legal skills, and the ability to work with highly intelligent clients and others who hold you to account. Little wonder he was not a team player.

(6)(5)

Anon

All lawyers give advice and informed opinions which sometimes are not held by the courts.

Ultimately, the UKSC decision on prorogation (for example) was a rather radical move (see the CA decision, which was also unanimous) and UKSC used some pretty far-out logic to arrive at the decision.

(2)(4)

Anonymous

It was not that radical. It followed the trend in an obvious example of abuse of power where a remedy was necessary. The Government was very arrogant in how it handled the case both in Scotland, by not putting in evidence to evade cross-examination of Boris and Rees-Mogg, and in the Supreme Court where it hid behind the Queen in a most cowardly and abusive fashion once it knew its gambit in Scotland left it cornered on the factual analysis.

Anonymous

Cox was clearly the best lawyer available for the post by some distance. With him gone the decision was taken to pick an appointee on the basis of political alignment rather than ability.

(8)(11)

Alastair Warren

Cox represents his Torridge and West Devon constituents by turning a blind eye to Devon and Cornwall police using taxpayers’ money to cover up their corruption and criminality?

Cox has been informed several times that ‘police reform’ May had lying, victim blaming Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer on her ‘World Class’ Modern Slavery Act.

Lying Cops helping create new legislation is compatible with the values of One Nation Conservatism?

#BentCopperHarm

(0)(2)

Stanley Pontlarge

Hi Alastair, tin foil hat back on please.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Heh, “Cox”. Bet he went to Dixon Poon.

(5)(1)

Legal Officer with a 2:ii

That’s not even funny.

(1)(4)

Waffley

“No. It’s without an e in both contexts.”

Wrong.

(3)(4)

Anon

Correct that it’s without an e in both contexts.

(19)(3)

Bez

What’s this about Es?

(3)(0)

Larry

Glad he has lost his political position. A while back I did ask for his opinions on Fox hunting Not realising he was a hunt supporter. So not surprised with his reply!

(2)(0)

s. 39 OAPA 1861

To be fair, he is more fox-friendly than some other members of the legal profession.

(2)(0)

Comments are closed.

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