Often seen as a controversial figure in the Conservative government, Michael Gove is not averse to making himself extremely unpopular for the good of his party. Just ask anyone who has worked in education under his reign as the Education Secretary.
A British Bill of Rights is what the Conservatives propose as an alternative, which will break the link between British Courts and the European Court of Human Rights, therefore making our Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK.
The Law Society are ready to oppose the repeal of the Human Rights Act, with President Andrew Caplain saying after the election results on Friday: “The Human Rights Act is a fundamental safeguard of many of our basic rights and freedoms. We will be pressing for the Government to retain it.”
As for the legal profession as a whole, it is difficult to know what to expect from Michael Gove and their will be concerns over what lies ahead.
Over the past five years, the industry has suffered at the hands of the previous incumbents, most notably Chris Grayling, and the decision to ignore the advice of many leading experts within the profession by appointing yet another non-lawyer into the role as Lord Chancellor, is bound to worry people.
This is not helped by Michael Gove’s reputation for confrontation, which he also displayed as the Education Secretary and he has already stated that he is ready to tackle challenges in a similar way in his new role.
Other things he will have to tackle are the need, or lack of need, for further whiplash reform. The insurance companies have already started their propaganda campaign for further reform, with FOIL tweeting their delight at the election result on Friday and today the insurers have contested the government’s own findings over whiplash as ‘misleading’.
Those recent Government figures, released as part of a freedom of information request by APIL, show that the level of claims being made for whiplash are actually down, so the personal injury profession will be looking for Mr Gove and the MoJ to get answers from the insurance industry as to why premium prices are heading the other way.
Background on Michael Gove
Michael Gove studied English at Oxford and was previously a journalist before entering parliament in 2005, most notably working for the BBC, Channel 4 and The Times.
Like Chris Grayling he has no legal background and famously called for the return of hanging in 1998 in an article he wrote during his stint as a columnist, where he said: “Hanging may seem barbarous, but the greater barbarity lies in the slow abandonment of our common law traditions.”
“Were I ever alone in the dock. I would not want to be arraigned before our flawed tribunals, knowing my freedom could be forfeit as a result of political pressures. I would prefer a fair trial, under the shadow of a noose.”
After the Tories entered power under the new coalition in 2010, Mr Gove was appointed Education Secretary, where he set about falling out with teachers over exam and curriculum reforms. He was relieved of this role last year, moving on to become Chief Whip, much to the relief of the education sector.
Chris Grayling now departs the role, which many would argue he has made an absolute mess of, to become the leader of the House of Commons and for those legal professionals hoping for some respite from irrational reform and insurer led policies, only time will tell which direction his successor will take.
Scott Rees and Co Partner, David Bryne, was apprehensive over his appointment, saying: “Obviously, a change from Chris Grayling is welcome but the relief could be short-lived if Mr Gove’s appointment is designed to force through further, scrupulous reform.”
“What the legal profession needs is a change in attitude from the top and a Lord Chancellor who listens to our voice and takes note of the facts. Currently the Government’s own facts currently suggest that the number of whiplash claims are on the decrease. Hopefully the new Lord Chancellor will not ignore this and take the insurers to task over why insurance premiums are still rising when the level of claims are dropping.”