“Bye, I won’t miss you” said Cherie Blair as she left Downing Street – or, to be more accurate, as Mr Blair left Downing Street for the last time as Prime Minister.
Since the publication of her memoirs “Speaking for Myself” it has not been possible to pick up a newspaper without seeing a picture of Cherie Blair or read a story about her greed.
Today we had The Evening Standard putting the boot in to Cherie in her guise as Cherie Booth QC – or rather, we had retired judge Gerald Butler QC and an anonymous shadowy figure putting the boot in.
THE CASE FOR THE PROSECUTION
“Judge Cherie must resign over diaries” screamed the headline. Cherie Booth QC is a recorder. She is a member of Matrix Chambers in London.
The Evening Standard puts the case for the prosecution and puts former Judge Gerald Butler on the witness stand first:
Gerald Butler QC, who was the senior judge at Southwark Crown Court for 13 years, said “What she has done is not appropriate for somebody who sits as a recorder. I don’t think she should continue to sit as a recorder. If she wants to tread this path of making money by outrageous comments that is up to her, but I don’t think this is a job for a judge. It shows a complete lack of any kind of decency. It is the kind of conduct which demeans the legal profession. It is altogether disgraceful but nothing less than I would expect from her. I would have thought there is no chance of her becoming a senior judge.”
[Leaving aside the legal profession’s standing in the eyes of the public for making vast piles of money and lawyers on the losing side of litigation making outrageous comments – The Standard article did not reveal what was in Gerald Butler’s mind in relation to ‘what she has done’ so we are none the wiser, in relation to the ‘It’ – in terms of (a) ‘It shows a complete lack of decency’ and (b) ‘It’…’ is altogether disgraceful’. One can only surmise that ‘it’ is in relation to her memoirs which may or may not have been read in full by former judge Gerald Butler. This is by no means clear from the context in the article of the edition of The Evening Standard which I purchased (and have kept) today. I’m just an ‘ever so humble’, if occasionally reluctant, reader of The Evening Standard. I did not write this article – perhaps I have misread it, misconstrued the intent? I accept, given I have no desire to aspire to papal office, that I am fallible.]
Upon reflection – I have come to this view: I would imagine that many people, faced with the prospect of making millions in the latter part of their careers through biography and other press writing, may well find the attractions of a judicial appointment unappealing. It is fortunate, for the future of our legal system – (a) that there cannot be that many men / women in a position to write memoirs after being the wife / husband /’consort of a prime minister and able to profit by writing memoirs, and (b) be in the frame for an appointment as a ‘senior’ judge or otherwise.
A view (unofficial?) from the Bar Council: The Evening Standard then calls John Cooper, a senior criminal barrister who sits on the Bar Council. The Standard reports that Cooper did not want to comment on the claims against Mrs Blair (Cherie Booth) but added: “One of the important factors in being a judge is being able to exercise judgment, and part of that judgment is being trusted with confidential material. One has to be very careful, in my view, about what one exposes to the public gaze.”
(Indeed,… after all that trouble last year about a judge (acquitted) being brought to account for exposing matters to the public gaze – it is imperative that nothing inappropriate should be so exposed.)
There follows a statement that no High Court judge has published memoirs before retiring and another statement “the most important thing about judges is they must prove to be people who can exercise judgment.”
(As a mere teacher of laws, part-time commentator and, a recent activity, reviewer of restaurants, I could not agree more with this aspirational statement. It has, however, been my experience, reading judgments over the past 30 years, that judgement, judgments, justice and common sense are not always in bed together – if you forgive this rather 21st century metaphor.) This may be yet another apostasy – mea culpa.
Although The Evening Standard is careful to note that John Cooper was not prepared to comment on Blair / Booth – the fact of the matter is… this statement was printed in an article pillorying Mrs Blair in her capacity as Cherie Booth QC. The Evening Standard expresses the view that judges can be removed by The Lord Chief Justice “if their conduct is seen to be putting the reputation of the judiciary at risk.”
Constitutional lawyers may be able to shed some light on the ‘technical’ accuracy of this last statement? I don’t happen to have the latest edition of Halsbury to hand… althought Halsbury’s Laws is never far from my fondest thoughts.
[ Enter Stage right ]
Third witness for the prosecution: a shadowy unnamed figure who is, however, a ‘senior lawyer and Opposition politician’.
Shadowy figure entertains the baying crowd in the pit by asserting that he did not believe Mrs Blair should resign as a judge – unless the book contained ‘revelations about the judiciary’. This, of course, predicates that ‘shadowy figure’ has not, in fact, read Mrs Blair’s book. I gather the book is actually available to the public on Friday 16th May. (Times2 – 15th May)
However….as the baying crowd fell silent... that awful silence…. where the crowd may turn at any moment against the speaker…. the source continues… “There was a stage when she was thought of as a future High Court judge but in terms of character I think she blew her chances a long time ago. This book is an act of political revenge. It has nothing to do with her work as a barrister or recorder.”
[Ed: Maybe Shadowy figure has read the book after all. Neither he / The Evening Standard appear to be absolutely sure given the statements made extracted above.]
THE CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
A spokesman for the Bar Standards Board, which regulates barristers’ conduct, said : “This issue has not been raised with us.”
The Evening Standard did, to be fair, report: “A source at The Bar Council said that while Mr Blair was prime minister, complaints about her had been received on a regular basis but were all groundless, and no disciplinary case was ever brought against her.”
Informed judgment may well follow. But, for the present at least, until the Press finds another fish bleeding in the water, it is open season on Cherie Blair. This may well be fair, in that capacity, given her political apostasy, her apparent greed, her behaviour in the past – but it hardly seems fair for her reputation as a lawyer to be impugned by a leading metropolitan newspaper in this way and, frankly, unless Gerald Butler QC, however good a judge he was, has (a) read the book, (b) is prepared to take the matter up with the Bar Standards Board and (c) is able to support his statements as reported by The Evening Standard – he may have been better served in his retirement not raising this in quite so public a way.
However, be that as it may, and the aforementioned may be a quite preposterous opinion for me to hold, I do take the view that Cherie Blair, wife of Mr Blair, writer – in that capacity, can hardly complain about press attention. She has brought that on herself by her past escapades and by publishing her memoirs – indeed, rushing them out to add to the pressure on the current tenant of Number 10 – the beleaguered Gordon Brown.
I declare at once that I have not read Mrs Blair’s biography. I shall borrow Sir Maurice Bowra’s aphorism, which I reel out at such times… “I shall lose no time at all in doing so.”
FANCY A CAPTION COMPETITION?
Prize: A bottle of Rioja or a book from Wildy’s
Rules: Very straightforward – give a caption to the picture on the right by posting a comment – and I shall exercise all the judgment / judgement I can muster to come to an entirely reasonable man, if arbitrary, adjudication on the winner in seven days time.
As always – I have made my contribution. This time, I promise not to award the prize to myself and drink the rioja.
RESULT OF GORDON BROWN CAPTION COMPETITION
I had to take communion, or at least the wine part of it, before coming to a decision. It was, as it always is, difficult for me – after all, I am parting with a bottle of rioja. There were quite a few entries – but, at the end of the day, I have chosen Simply Wondered’s contribution – simply because I wonder how his mind works.
SW – if you post a comment I shall email you. You have a choice – dinner avec Charon in West London or a bottle of Rioja delivered to your residence. Dinner will be at a pub – so don’t worry – there will be food and drink!