The Law Society’s Parliamentary Update – 11 May 2015 – Election special

Post election – special report

Dear Office Holders, Council, Board and Committee Members,

Undoubtedly you will have seen last week’s unexpected election results which resulted in a majority Conservative government. There was  some surprise when the exit poll was announced putting the Conservatives as the largest party and defying polls which had consistently put Labour and Conservatives neck and neck throughout the campaign. However, as more results were announced through the early morning on Friday, it became clear that the exit poll was correct.

The final make up of Parliament, giving the Conservatives a working majority of 12, is:

  • Conservative – 331 seats
  • Labour – 232 seats
  • Scottish National Party – 56 seats
  • Liberal Democrat – 8 seats
  • Democratic Unionist Party – 8 seats
  • Sinn Fein – 4 seats
  • Plaid Cymru – 3 seats
  • Social Democratic and Labour Party – 3 seats
  • Ulster Unionist Party – 2 seats
  • UK Independence Party  – 1 seat
  • Green – 1 seat
  • Others (the Speaker)  – 1 seatIn this parliament, 84 MPs are legally qualified – 40 barristers and 44 solicitors. We will provide more information on these MPs later in the week.Electorally it was a good night for the SNP and a good night for the Conservatives. However, it was a bad night for Labour and an even worse night for the Liberal Democrats.

    Labour lost 40 seats in Scotland (including the Scottish Labour Leader, Jim Murphy) and Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, also lost his seat in West Yorkshire. The Liberal Democrats lost a significant number of seats (most polls had predicted them to be left with approximately 30 seats) including party heavyweights such as Vince Cable, David Laws, Simon Hughes and Charles Kennedy. Nick Clegg managed to keep has kept his Sheffield seat, although it is likely this was due to the support of Conservatives voting tactically. The Conservatives did however lose Esther McVey who represented Wirral West, and who served as Minister of State for Employment.

    On Friday morning, three of party leaders resigned. Nigel Farage resigned as the Leader of UKIP – although he just announced his ‘un-resignation’ after the party’s executive rejected his decision to quit. Nick Clegg then resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats, triggering a leadership election, but staying on as leader until the conclusion of that contest. The final leader to resign was Ed Miliband. He was swiftly followed by Harriet Harman who announced that she will step down from her post as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party but will continue the role until a replacement is selected for both posts.

    On Friday, Prime Minister Cameron started to appoint his Cabinet and this has continued into today. Below are details of the key players. Of particular note, Michael Gove has been appointed as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. Mr Gove will be in charge of implementing the Conservatives’ pledge to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. Please see below for his biography.

    The Labour Party has also appointed its Shadow Cabinet. Notably, Sadiq Khan has stepped down from serving as Shadow Justice Secretary. His resignation letter positioned him to fight in the upcoming election for Mayor of London:“Another 5 years of a Tory government means more misery and suffering for my Tooting constituents and millions of others around London and our country. After taking advice from family, friends and constituents I will decide how best I can contribute to the fight over the coming months and years.” As Labour’s Shadow Minister for London and mastermind of the party’s trend-bucking election campaign in London, he has confirmed his desire to take the Mayoral role instead. He has been replaced, likely to be only on a temporary basis, by the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Charlie Falconer.

    On Friday we’ll share more intelligence on the legislation we expect to be announced in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech at the end of this month, and  any relevant updates on the new Cabinet and ministerial team.

    Kind regards,

    Richard Messingham

    Head of Public Affairs

    The Conservative Cabinet

    Secretary of State for Justice – Michael Gove

    A sharp and effective reformer, Gove has risen to the top of the Conservative party as one of Cameron’s key confidants following his election in 2005. Five years after entering the House of Commons he was appointed Education Secretary in 2010, holding this role until the July 2014 reshuffle when he was moved to the role of Chief Whip. Following the 2015 general election he has now replaced Chris Grayling as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, another non-lawyer appointed by David Cameron to the role.

    As justice secretary, his responsibilities will include implementing the Conservative Party’s pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.

    The aim is to give the UK courts and Parliament – rather than European institutions – the final say in contentious cases.

    Other appointments

    Cameron has been announcing cabinet position all day. Updates can be foundhere. Positions of interest to the legal profession include:

    • Sajid Javid is the new Business Secretary – replacing Vince Cable, the former Liberal Democrat MP. Javid was previously Culture Secretary.
    • Chris Grayling, formerly the Justice Secretary, becomes Leader of the House of Commons
    • George Osborne remains as Chancellor and also took the title of First Secretary of State in the Cabinet
    • Theresa May remains as Home Secretary
    • Boris Johnson becomes Minister without Portfolio and will attend the Prime Minister’s Political Cabinet.

    No news yet of the other key appointments at the Ministry of Justice, such as minister for courts and legal services, nor the name of the Attorney General or Solicitor General.

    The Shadow Cabinet

    Labour announces its Shadow Cabinet

    The acting Labour leader, Harriet Harman announced her Shadow Cabinet on Monday 11th May which is likely to run until a new party leader is elected in a few months time. Positions of interest to the profession include:

    • Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer – Chris Leslie
    • Shadow Home Secretary – Yvette Cooper
    • Shadow Lord Chancellor, Shadow Justice Secretary –  Lord Falconer of Thoroton
    • Shadow Business Secretary – Chuka Umunna
    • Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury – Shabana Mahmood
    • Shadow Attorney General – Lord Bach

    It is expected that Andy Slaughter will be the Shadow Justice Minister.