Warning: This post was published more than 10 years ago.
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The Attorney General is a government appointee. He attends Cabinet Meetings, and is a very political figure. Indeed, Lord Goldsmith is a Labour peer.
Simultaneously, the Attorney General has supervisory powers over prosecution. He is the chief legal advisor of the Crown. He (largely) calls the legal shots in this country.
Now, his two worlds have spectacularly collided, and this staunch Labour supporter is being asked to preside over the case of corruption within the Labour Party. If that’s not a major conflict of interest, I’m not sure what is. Yet he refuses to step aside and ‘butt out’ of this affair, despite the fact that any fool can see that him being involved is not in the interests of true Justice being done.
The Government continues to use the slightly meaningless defence that “it’s always been that way” – well, yes, but never have we seen corruption to the heart of the governing Party quite like we have at the moment. It’s a new situation, and as new situations arise our uncodified Constitution is able to adapt – this is, and always has been, its great strength. Its great weakness is the virtually unchecked power handed to the Government of the day, and perhaps this is something that needs to be reformed in the world of corrupt politics.
Lord Goldsmith will be the last Attorney General of his kind. This situation has destroyed the credibility of the office. I’m not sure why, but that just feels like a significant blow in the downfall of the Labour Party: A 730 year old office falls apart because of the corruption of one small group of people.
I’m not sure whether to be depressed at the erosion, or to celebrate the wonderful versatility that this country’s unique constitution provides. It’s probably not for me to judge. But it seems worthy of a mention.