Mahmood crowned lord chancellor as UK lawyers win and lose in Labour landslide

Barrister Shabana Mahmood first Muslim to be appointed to the role as Labour’s victory sees trio of current and former Conservative lord chancellors swept aside
Official portrait of Shabana_Mahmood

UK Parliament

A day of mixed fortunes for high-profile lawyers standing in the UK general election has culminated with the appointment of the first Muslim lord chancellor and justice secretary, Shabana Mahmood, by the incoming Labour prime minister, Sir Keir Starmer.

Mahmood’s appointment by Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, followed Labour’s landslide victory that saw a trio of current and former Conservative lord chancellors swept aside.

The immediate former lord chancellor, justice secretary Alex Chalk KC, lost his Cheltenham parliamentary seat. An experienced criminal barrister, Chalk was one of the first members of the Cabinet to be defeated in the 4 July poll, losing by more than 7,000 votes to Max Wilkinson of the Liberal Democrats. 

Chalk, respected by the judiciary and the professional bodies, was the eighth person to hold the role since 2016, with Dominic Raab holding the office twice. Chalk was instrumental in seeking reforms to litigation funding and the exoneration of those convicted following the Post Office scandal and seeking reforms to international arbitration, which may return to Parliament under Labour. 

Fellow cabinet member, culture secretary Lucy Frazer KC, also lost her seat in Ely and East Cambridgeshire, again to the Liberal Democrats. She was joined in defeat by a fellow former lord chancellor, Sir Robert Buckland KC, who lost his South Swindon seat to Labour’s Heidi Alexander by more than 9,000 votes. 

Buckland, whose seat was among the first to be declared on election night, told the BBC his fellow Conservatives had focused on “personal agendas and jockeying for position” instead of “concentrating on doing the job that they were elected to do”.

He added: “I’ve watched colleagues strike poses, write inflammatory op-eds and say stupid things they have no evidence for instead of concentrating on doing the job they were elected to do.”

Joining Buckland in what he called “electoral Armageddon” was former lord chancellor Liz Truss, one of the shortest-serving prime ministers on record. Truss lost her Norfolk South West seat to Labour by 630 votes, surrendering a previous majority of more than 24,000. 

Other lord chancellors who will not return to Parliament included Michael Gove, Brandon Lewis and Dominic Raab, who all stood down in May. 

Mahmood has replaced Chalk as lord chancellor, becoming only the second woman to hold the role after Truss. Like Chalk, she is also a barrister by profession and beat controversial independent local solicitor Akhmed Yakoob with a 42% vote share. 

She will join the Cabinet led by Starmer, who retained his Holborn and St Pancras seat with a reduced majority and obtained a 174-seat majority at the election, with two seats yet to be declared at time of writing. 

Attorney general Victoria Prentis KC also lost her Banbury seat in a shock result, the first time that constituency has returned a non-Conservative MP since 1906, surrendering a majority of 16,000. 

Her colleague, solicitor general Robert Courts KC, lost his seat in Witney to the Liberal Democrats; the seat was formerly held by Conservative grandees Douglas Hurd and David Cameron, both members of the House of Lords, with Cameron, a former prime minister, returning to government as foreign secretary last year, a role previously held by Hurd. 

In contrast, Labour shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry comfortably retained her Islington South and Finsbury seat, as did shadow solicitor general Karl Turner in his home seat of Hull East. 

Other Labour lawyers elected included Edwards Duthie solicitor Kevin Bonavia, who won the bellwether seat of Stevenage. 

Matrix Chambers barrister Sarah Sackman won Margaret Thatcher’s old Finchley and Golders Green seat. Sackman defeated another former barrister, FTI senior public affairs consultant Alex Deane, for the seat previously held by the outgoing justice minister, Mike Freer. City lawyers widely acclaimed Freer for promoting London as a centre for international disputes in office. 

Lucy Rigby [no relation] won her Northampton North seat comfortably with a 42% vote share; the Hausfeld partner holds the seat previously represented by former attorney general Michael Ellis KC. In contrast, another Tory former attorney general and likely leadership contender, Suella Braverman KC, narrowly retained her Fareham and Waterlooville constituency. 

Other results of note saw former SNP MP Joanna Cherry KC lose her seat in Scotland to Labour.

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