Baroness Hale: My feminism may have cost me Supreme Court president role

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Baroness Hale of Richmond, - a' approval to trigger the process of taking Britain out of the European Union. See PA story COURTS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Supreme Court/PA Wire Nr./ a' approval to trigger the process of taking Britain out of the European Union. See PA story COURTS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Supreme Court/PA Wire Nr.
Baroness Hale of Richmond, - a' approval to trigger the process of taking Britain out of the European Union. See PA story COURTS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Supreme Court/PA Wire Nr./ a' approval to trigger the process of taking Britain out of the European Union. See PA story COURTS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Supreme Court/PA Wire Nr.

Baroness Hale of Richmond claims she may have missed out on becoming Supreme Court president on her first attempt because she is a "feminist".

The trailblazing former judge said her uncompromising stance on women's rights may have put her at a disadvantage against her opponent, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, who beat her to the position in 2012.

She was one of the two longest serving Law Lords when she applied and was finally elected on her second attempt in 2017, becoming the first woman to head the UK's highest court. She served until her retirement in 2020.

Her comments come after claims that she had a row with a fellow justice in the run up to the contest and consequently was seen as overly sensitive by colleagues.

'Touchy' and not 'suitable'

Baroness Hale was said to have "taken offence" to a comment by Nicholas Wilson, a former Supreme Court justice, which led to another colleague describing her as "touchy" and perhaps not a "suitable" president.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, she was asked if people were right to cite her feminism as a potential reason she lost out on the job on her first attempt.

Baroness Hale replied: "They may have been. Or just the fact that I was a woman. Or that I was me! I am sure there will be things about me that not everybody likes. Possibly my propensity for speaking my mind when I want to. Sometimes my tactlessness."

Baroness Hale of Richmond - TMG News
Baroness Hale of Richmond - TMG News

She said her colleagues may have found her difficult to handle at times.

"I have made no secret of my belief that women are the equals of men in dignity and in rights, and that their experience of life is just as valid and important in shaping the law, as is the experience of men," she said.

"I do not think that was always popular amongst certain sections of the media, and possibly not always popular amongst some of my colleagues.

Having an agenda

"One of my colleagues I subsequently learned, because he published diaries, said that I was seen as having an agenda. Well, I probably do have an agenda, which is to promote equality and diversity.

"It's an agenda which lots of people have but it is sometimes stigmatised as being an agenda, whereas the agenda which other people have, to preserve the status quo, is never seen as an agenda."

During Baroness Hale's distinguished career, she was the first woman appointed to the Law Commission in 1984, the first female Law Lord in 2004, and the first female justice of the Supreme Court in 2009.

She was thrust into the spotlight in 2019 when she read out the Supreme Court's decision that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully when he advised the Queen to suspend Parliament.

"It doesn't give us any satisfaction at all to tell the Prime Minister or a public authority that what they have done is unlawful, but it is satisfying to reach a judgement," she said.

"We were not debating whether or not Brexit should happen. That had been decided in the referendum, and we are a democracy."

Discussing the spider brooch she wore to deliver the judgement, which prompted much speculation that it contained a hidden message about her feelings towards Mr Johnson, she said it was no more than a last-minute wardrobe choice.

"When I got the dress out of the wardrobe the spider which usually sits on it was nowhere to be seen," she said.

"So I went quickly to my jewellery drawer and took out another spider. It never crossed my mind that anybody would draw any conclusions from the fact that I was wearing a spider rather than a dragonfly or a frog or anything else. There were no hidden messages in it whatsoever."

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