Cabinet audit: What does the appointment of Robert Buckland as Justice Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Justice.


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The new groove of appointing a former lawyer as Justice Secretary continues, following the successful tenure of David Gauke – the first solicitor to hold the post. Robert Buckland, a QC and former solicitor general, with experience as prisons minister, is likely to follow in Gauke’s reforming footsteps. The main next policy step would be following through with the proposal to scrap prison sentences under six months.

Buckland served under Gauke at the MoJ, so should have a clear idea of Gauke’s unusually liberal prison agenda for a Conservative administration. Also, like Gauke, he was a Remainer – but unlike his predecessor, who resigned before Johnson became PM, he supported Johnson’s leadership bid early on.

Buckland will also be Lord Chancellor – the first trial judge to fill this post as far back as the MoJ’s permanent secretary Richard Heaton can remember. There is a bit of a grumble in one corner of the legal world, however – barrister and Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry is questioning his fitness for the job, given he was found guilty of professional misconduct in 2008.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.