Under the old system of selecting Queen’s Counsel, it helped an awful lot if you happened to come from the ‘right’ set of chambers or if you were suitably well connected or if you were prepared to do some really serious brown-nosing. Then the State started to use the opacity of the system to fulfil ethnic and sex quotas.

The result was that some real jokers were smuggled into the pack, especially some really poor female Juniors who struggled a while before drowning. The State then made them Circuit Judges to fulfil the ‘need’ for more women on the bench, which meant a whole other set of quotas. They proved no better there than when they were in Silk since they almost all lacked the experience of doing lots of heavyweight cases and would routinely get worked over by proper heavyweight Silks who were a lot brighter than they were.

Elsewhere some poor souls would spend a small fortune on entertaining every High Court Judge in sight, ending up with a nose so brown it was positively black from all the effort that went into currying favour. One High Court Judge of my acquaintance, now dead, worked a ticket for a former Pupil who must qualify as the stupidest QC on earth. So it goes with the establishment.

I was convinced that the new system which has been introduced to bring more ‘transparency’ into the business of appointing people to the rank of Queen’s Counsel was actually going to be a more formalised version of what the old one had become, a means of positive discrimination in favour of women and those from ethnic minorities. In the event early result may have proved me wrong, as the Times reports briefly today:

QCs are less diverse

The number of women and ethnic minority lawyers making Queen’s Counsel has slumped, figures show. A new selection system, set up to encourage diversity, has resulted in a drop in the number of new female QCs and the lowest proportion of ethnic minority lawyers given the honour since 2001.

Is it just possible that a system of genuine meritocracy has been established that only appoints those who pass muster regardless of race, colour, creed, sex etc.? Is that why the numbers of women and ethnic minority lawyers has plummeted?

I hope so. I hate positive discrimination which means that people who should not get a job, being inadequately qualified, do so and others, who are qualified, do not. Some of the women who got Silk in the old days caused more than just a few jaws to drop in amazement and a fair few sniggers as well as they struggled with something way above their pay grade. Actually it did a considerable disservice to those women who were wholly deserving of the appointment who got tarred with the same brush.

The drop in numbers of those who got preferment because of what they are rather than deserving it on the basis of ability will come as a big blow to the likes of a lemon-sucker like Harriett Harman, who has caused a few jaws to drop in her time. Harriett Harman QC, that is.

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