From Braverman to Starmer: the many lawyers seeking election to the UK Parliament

Ben Rigby runs the rule over a selection of the nearly 200 lawyers vying for votes in today’s general election

Keir Starmer Image courtesy of the Labour Party

Among the 4,145 candidates standing for the UK general election on 4 July, a significant number (193) are lawyers, including many from commercial law firms and the Bar.

First among equals is the leader of the Labour Party and former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer KC, who is standing again in his Holborn seat. A former co-head of Doughty Street Chambers, Starmer – whose party has consistently led in the polls since the election was called – is widely expected to become Prime Minister on 5 July. 

Challenging Starmer in Holborn for the Conservatives is Mayer Brown’s head of CSR, Mehreen Malik, who leads the firm’s pro bono, sustainability, diversity and inclusion briefs. 

Shabana Mahmood, a former DWF professional indemnity barrister and the shadow Lord Chancellor, is in a contest for her Birmingham Ladywood seat. She faces Akhmed Yakoob of Birmingham-based law firm Maurice Andrews, an independent candidate who came third in the West Midlands Mayoral election in May. Yakoob issued an apology and pledged to “fight misogyny” last month after comments he made on a podcast earlier this year were labelled “misogynistic” and “disturbing” by the Muslim Women’s Network.  

If Mahmood secures her seat, she could make history as the first Muslim to lead the Ministry of Justice. This would be a significant milestone, particularly in the context of the abolition of historic restrictions on non-Anglican religious affiliations to the post 50 years ago. 

Given the Ministry’s current challenges, whoever inherits the role has a full inbox. The historic underfunding and the precarious state of the civil, criminal and family justice system, particularly for the disadvantaged, consumers and small businesses, are issues that demand immediate attention. 

The Law Society, the Bar Council and, more quietly, the judiciary are eager for a government to address these issues, as extensively detailed by the outgoing Justice Select Committee chair, Sir Bob Neill KC (Hon), who retired at the dissolution of Parliament.   

The advice of Labour councillor and policy adviser Ellie Cumbo will bolster Mahmood’s work, should she succeed. With her extensive experience in senior policy roles at the Law Society and the Bar Council, Cumbo is a valuable asset to Mahmood’s team.

The incumbent Justice Secretary Alex Chalk KC faces a tough re-election battle in his home seat of Winchester from the Liberal Democrats, where he is defending a narrow majority. One of his predecessors, Sir Robert Buckland KC, who is a consultant at Payne Hicks Beach, also faces a similar challenge in Swindon South, but this time from Labour. 

Meanwhile, White & Case associate Mhairi Fraser seeks to replace another former Lord Chancellor, Sir Chris Grayling, in his Epsom & Ewell seat, where she hopes to be elected against a tide of Liberal Democrat resurgence in the leafy Surrey shires. The seat was once held by former Conservative Attorney General Sir Peter Rawlinson QC, later Lord Rawlinson of Ewell. 

Another former Law Officer, the Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Cox KC, who took up a consultancy with Withers in 2020 alongside his practice at Thomas More Chambers, is expected to retain his new seat of Torridge and Tavistock. 

Less sure to retain her seat is former South Square silk Lucy Frazer KC, a former justice minister, who faces a LibDem challenge in Ely and East Cambridgeshire. 

Competition partner Lucy Rigby [no relation] of commercial disputes firm Hausfeld looks to be a strong challenger to win Northampton North for Labour; the former Conservative Attorney General who held the seat, Sir Michael Ellis, stood down at the election. 

Meanwhile, Labour candidate Sophia Adams Bhatti, global head of purpose at Simmons & Simmons, is challenging Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper in St Albans. 

Former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer associate Samuel Joynson, now of Boston Consulting Group, stands in Eastleigh for the Conservatives, while former Conservative Home Secretary Suella Braverman KC is expected to retain her revised Fareham and Waterlooville constituency nearby. Both are considered relatively safe seats. 

In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Tory leadership contender Braverman said the election was “over” and that the writing was “on the wall” for the Conservative Party. Other Conservative ministers, such as Mel Stride and Chris Heaton-Harris, doubted the party’s prospects without directly conceding defeat. 

Besides Starmer, the best-known possible new Labour MP is Blur drummer Dave Rowntree, standing in Mid-Sussex. The former Kingsley Napley associate previously contested a seat in the Cities of London and Westminster in 2010. 

The author is a freelance legal journalist and Liberal Democrat Councillor, but his views are personal and do not represent those of Global Legal Post or the Liberal Democrats.

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