Dicey? Bingham? Or perhaps you prefer the Wrightean doctrine of the Rule of Law as it operates in the UK? For Jeremy Wright (the Attorney General for those who’ve forgotten – or perhaps never knew) has given us his thoughts on this complex and contested legal principle.
Generally “the rule of law” is boiled down to a simple phrase: No one is above the law – including the Government. This though, is not the message Mr Wright wishes to get across. His speech “on the UK’s long commitment to the Rule of Law” was delivered at the London Law Expo in the City of London. The Expo is a sort of legal/business fest with, this year, Dragons’ Den man James Caan as keynote speaker.
Wright’s intended audience, therefore, was the business community – specifically the international business community. What excites him is less Britain’s commitment to the rule of law, forged through revolts and rebellions and the slow painful birth of a democratic society. No, what excites him is this: that
“the numbers show just how successful the legal services sector has been: in 2012 it was worth over £20 billion, or 1.5% of UK GDP and contributed some £4 billion in export value. There were over 300,000 people employed in our legal services sector with over 200 foreign law firms operating in London and elsewhere in the country”.
Britain, for these reasons, is not just a place to do business. It is a place to do law. So the point of the rule of law is: it’s good for business. “Our long commitment to the rule of law [is] I believe, is of central importance to the British economy”.
For Wright has very little interests in the philosophy or practice of the rule of law; rather he is concerned to established Britain’s (or perhaps only London’s) unique selling point: “All companies know that they will be judged by clear rules applied in accordance with the law.” The rest of the speech is a promotion of UK plc’s legal services. Somehow he even manages to spin the Libor scandal as a “good” story: