Thursday, September 03, 2009

Michael Mansfield QC and his 'missing' Knighthood...

The 'Ephraim Hardcastle' column in today's Daily Mail contains a story about the famous radical barrister Michael Mansfield QC.

As I cannot link directly to that item in isolation from the rest of 'his' column - it's a pretty open secret that the name 'Ephraim Hardcastle' is a nom-de-plume for the Mail's regular columnist, Peter McKay - I'll reproduce it here in its entirety:

"Michael Mansfield QC, 67, says in his rather naffly-titled book, Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer, that, in his 1950s youth, growing up in the London suburb of Barnet, his mother 'cajoled me into joining the Young Conservatives so I could learn the quickstep and meet the right sort of girl'.

He had two wives - Melian Bordes, by whom he has five children, and documentary maker Yvette Vanson, with whom he has one.And his quickstep? Envious colleagues say few have niftier footwork when it comes to bagging lucrative criminal briefs. But why no knighthood for a QC of his eminence?

Surely it isn't being withheld because he represented the Royal Family's erstwhile friend, Mohamed Al Fayed? Mansfield says in his memoir that Prince Philip referred to Dodi Fayed as 'an oily bed-hopper'."

I don't think that's the reason at all. The reason he hasn't been honoured with a knighthood - frankly few barristers are, however eminent - is rather more straightforward; Mansfield is an avowed republican, as the following excerpt from website of ‘Republic’ The Campaign for an Elected Head of State, tends to confirm:

"The republican movement has been buoyed by Republic's recent success in challenging the oath of allegiance and launching its "Royal Finance Reform Charter". Republic's campaign is backed by many high profile republicans including Polly Toynbee and Michael Mansfield QC."

So, accepting for the purposes of this post that Mansfield is a man of principle, I would expect any self-respecting republican (a perfectly legitimate position to adopt, irrespetive of the Throne's profound disagreement with it) to reject the offer of a knighthood out of hand, or risk the accusation of hypocrisy.

Just two futher observations.

Firstly, I wonder why a 'republican' actively sought the status of Queen's Counsel; couldn't a self proclaimed socialist such as Mansfield have had just as successful and as high profile - not to mention lucrative - a career at the Bar without those two post-nominal letters, or did he seek them for the financial rewards they would bring?

And secondly, with people such as the increasingly comical Polly Toynbee and Mr Mansfield supporting the abolition of our monarchy, I'm reassured that my grandchildren will be celebrating the coronation of King William V's successsor in about seventy years' time...


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