From Lord Denning, who gave the first of this series of lectures in 1949, to Jeremy Waldron in 2011, those who had previously been asked to deliver these three annual lectures have without exception been lawyers distinguished by their practice, their academic study or both.
For the 2012 series, the Trustees asked me. I started life as a lawyer, but I earned my living at the Bar for just two years before I was diverted into the preoccupation of the rest of my adult life, politics.
Whilst some, maybe many, political careers lightly brush our legal system if there is any contact with it at all, mine has followed a different course. I’ve been fascinated by the interaction of the work of our courts with the processes of government and the body politic. Over a significant part of my ministerial career I was responsible for an extensive legislative programme, including the Human Rights Act 1998, which has become a new foundation of what passes as the constitution of the United Kingdom.
The final ministerial post I held, from 2007 to 2010, was as Lord Chancellor – the first in modern times to sit in the House of Commons. No longer is the Lord Chancellor head of the judiciary – that role properly falls to the Lord Chief Justice. But the Lord Chancellor is responsible (indeed he or she has a statutory duty in this regard) for upholding the independence of the judiciary. The job gave me an interesting insight at the intersection of the three branches of modern democratic government – executive, judicial and legislative.