Igor Judge Q&A: “My special subject? Magna Carta – or the Ashes”

Igor Judge, the former lord chief justice, talks Leicester City, Winston Churchill and a lack of computer skills.

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Igor Judge was born in Malta in 1941, “with bombs landing on the hospital”. He was called to the Bar in 1963, and served as lord chief justice from 2008 to 2013.

What’s your earliest memory?

Sitting on broken glass. My parents told me this happened in Gibraltar when we were returning to England after the terrible siege of Malta.

Who are your heroes?

Denis Compton, for boyhood magic. And Winston Churchill, without whose bloody-minded determination and inspirational use of the English language, our lives would have been catastrophically different. 

What was the last book that changed your thinking?

The End of Lawyers? by Richard Susskind, a remarkable analysis of the likely impact of technology, not merely for lawyers but for us all. The advances of technology will be electrically rapid and we are not and perhaps cannot be prepared for them.

What political figure, past or present, do you look up to?

William Marshal who, after his election as regent in 1216, preserved the Plantagenet dynasty, created conciliar government, defeated the invading French at the Battle of Lincoln, twice reissued Magna Carta under his own seal, saving it from oblivion, and sent it across the sea to Ireland, enabling American colonists to defeat the argument that Magna Carta principles were confined to England.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Magna Carta, or the Ashes 1946-1956.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Provided I was not close to the bottom of the pile, Norman Sicily. But I prefer now, if only (but not only) for the advances in medicine and health.

What TV show could you not live without?

None; but when Leicester City were winning the Premier League, the absence of Match of the Day would have been a deprivation.

Who would paint your portrait?

Masaccio, who brought Western art to life by capturing the reaction of St Peter’s skin to the cold waters of baptism, and then died very young. Sitting for him would be a privilege, but I should need an interpreter.

What’s your theme tune?

Too many favourites.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Robert Lymbery QC told me that if I did not stop work and come out of the study when my small children came to collect me, they would stop coming. I followed it immediately, and permanently.

What’s currently bugging you?

Failure to respect views you do not share is becoming alarmingly prevalent.

What would make your life better?

Greater computer skills.

When were you happiest?

Fortunately, always.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

A historian. Ralph Bennett at Magdalene College, Cambridge advised me that if I was certain I wanted to go to the Bar, I needed a hobby for life, and should read history. It did indeed give me a wonderful hobby.

Are we all doomed?

Not unless we are very stupid.

Lord Igor Judge will chair the Westminster Abbey Institute’s lecture on “Truth Told” by Claire Foster-Gilbert on 20 March

This article appears in the 13 March 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Putin’s spy game