What, it must now be asked, is the point of the House of Lords Constitution Committee hearings on judicial appointments?
The committee set out in fair weather in the summer on a stately voyage to explore the waters of the British constitution with the aim of balancing accountability, independence, transparency and the need to foster diversity in judicial appointments.
Meanwhile the oily-fingered engineers in the dark recesses of the Ministry of Justice, headed by the Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, were constructing a less majestic vessel which they launched as a public consultation document last week – Appointments and Diversity: A Judiciary for the 21st Century.
This seems not only to have taken the wind out of the Lords committee’s sails but to have hijacked the process altogether, with some pretty clear plans – among them proposals to bring a political role back into judicial appointments. Cap’n Ken and his piratical crew are steering the debate, full steam ahead, into waters very much of their choosing.