Author Archives: Judith Rogerson

No Rishi! The country does not share your values

In his speech to the Tory Party conference, Rishi Sunak made a bold declaration: “We share the same values. The Conservative Party and the country.” For a start the 57% of voters who didn’t opt for the Conservatives last December will disagree. But his statement also raises a key question: what are the values that today’s Conservative Party stand for? Anyone who takes a moment to look at Johnson’s Conservatives can see that the party of statecraft, the rule of law and fiscal conservatism no longer exists.

The rest of Sunak’s speech was surprisingly brief and light on policy. One thing he did emphasise was his commitment to balancing the books. But that didn’t seem to matter when it came to getting Brexit done or when announcing huge infrastructure spending.

They say they are about law and order, but have just voted to allow themselves to break international law. And Priti Patel’s speech at the weekend advocating an escalation of the hostile environment towards those seeking asylum made clear the Conservatives aren’t a party that looks out for the most vulnerable in society.

Part of the problem for the Conservatives is their own internal ideological divisions. On the one hand they have a raft of MPs in solidly safe seats who keep their heads down in public and quietly do as they are told, willingly voting for the Government every time. Some of these types also come from Lib Dem facing not-so-safe seats where their bacon was saved by Nigel Farage standing down his Brexit Party troops. 

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Priti Patel should know that there’s no such thing as an ‘activist lawyer’

During the working day I am a lawyer. For most of the rest of my time I am an activist. But I am not an activist lawyer. Despite the dangerous arguments that have been bandied around by the Conservative-run Home Office over the past week, Priti Patel should know that this is something that just doesn’t exist. The reality is that, under our legal system, the personal views of a lawyer won’t have an impact on the outcome of a case.

I’ve always privately held liberal political views and for the past four years I’ve been an active Liberal Democrat. It’s something I often get asked about by colleagues behind the scenes but I’ve always taken care to keep my politics out of my work. It would be wrong for my personal views to influence the legal advice I give or how I argue a point in Court.

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked is why I would be willing to put my legal career on hold to become a Liberal Democrat MP. Why would I give up something that I enjoy and have worked hard to achieve, in exchange for – let’s be honest – a pretty precarious, highly pressured and intensely scrutinised job in Parliament?

My answer has always been this: there’s an important difference between the roles of barristers and politicians. It comes down to whether or not our own personal views have any influence over the cases and causes that we take up.

As activists and politicians we fight for the causes that we personally believe in. But as a barrister it is my job to fearlessly argue my client’s case in accordance with the law. What I personally think does not matter, and should not matter. And that’s why this idea of ‘activist lawyers’ is such a nonsense.

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Winning in the North: Your chance to help make it happen

It was around 3am at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield when our worst fears were confirmed. Nick had lost. He was the better candidate and had served his constituency, our Party and our country with distinction. It was a crushing feeling for all of us who were there and had worked so hard over the previous weeks to re-elect our former leader as the MP for Sheffield Hallam.

Two and a half years later it was me up there on the stage at the Harrogate Convention Centre having stood as the candidate for Harrogate & Knaresborough. It remains a seat with a strong liberal tradition, not least thanks to the incredible hard work of Lord Willis who was our Lib Dem MP between 1997 and 2010. Phil Willis was the epitome of a great constituency MP, having successfully led the local Council before being elected to Parliament. He linked our proud traditions of community politics and campaigning at the national level for our liberal values.

I was up against a beatable Conservative candidate in an area that, unusually for our region, had voted to remain in the EU. On that same night in December last year, my friend Laura Gordon was the candidate facing a beatable Labour candidate in Sheffield Hallam. It was a similar story for other strong candidates in our region like Lisa Smart in Hazel Grove and Tom Morrison in Cheadle.

Why was our movement not able to win these seats despite strong local campaigns and investment of resources from across the country?

We didn’t always struggle to do this.  From Withington to Westmorland and Burnley to Berwick, in 2010 we elected Lib Dem MPs all over the north of England, but now we only have Tim Farron representing our cause at Westminster.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 25 Comments
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