OPINION - Rob Rinder: I love nothing more than knowing nothing about our judges’ politics

 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

I’ve always been hooked on American politics. I’m the kind of nerd who reads transcripts of presidential speeches for pleasure and listens to US Supreme Court arguments while going to sleep. It’s astonishing that I’m still single.

So I was gripped by last week’s US midterm elections and the unexpected swing away from the Trumpier bits of the Republican Party and slight shuffle towards the Democratic Party.

With red being the Republicans’ colour, everyone was predicting a “Red Wave”. But it was, at best, a sort of pale pink trickle, like what dribbles out your mouth when you gargle at the dentist.

Interestingly, it seems there were two issues that played on the minds of many American voters. First — and understandably — the cost of living influenced a lot of people.

The second was last June’s US Supreme Court decision: Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, where the Right-wing Justices deleted the constitutional right to abortion.

It’s something that can seem staggering to Brits. Senior judges in the US find themselves slap-bang in the middle of their political system and culture wars — and that’s somewhere they should never be.

Of course, big constitutional decisions affect peoples’ lives, but many voters in the US don’t believe their justices are writing their decisions objectively. Republicans picks Republican judges and Democrats pick Democratic ones. It’s reminded me how lucky we are with our own judicial system. Our judges are chosen purely on merit and, most necessary of all, their politics are a matter for them and them alone.

At the top is our own Supreme Court: 12 brilliant lawyers who, unlike in the US, are definitively not public figures (in fact, I recently chatted to a lawyer who’s often in the UK Supreme Court and he realised that he could only name six of them). Importantly, I’ve no idea which parties our senior judges support. It could well be Monster Raving Loony across the board.

Equally, even a hint of bias is intolerable for UK judges. Back in the late Nineties, Lord Hoffmann (then an equivalent to a Supreme Court Justice) gave a judgment involving the extradition of General Pinochet. When Hoffmann’s connections to Amnesty were later revealed, the decision he was involved in was overturned. Not because he was biased, but because even the perception of bias was enough. It’s a million miles from the situation in the US.

Even when some papers have tried to crowbar politics into our courts — like the terrible “Enemies of the People” headline (attacking three judges for their decision in a Brexit case) —

Britons wouldn’t wear it. As much as I adore the United States, we’ve unquestionably got the healthier system.

It’s one we should protect fiercely. Politics and the judiciary are like chopped herring and cookie dough ice-cream: both are excellent, necessary things, but when you mix them together, you’re on a very bad road indeed.

They say never meet your heroes...

 (BBC/Shine TV)
(BBC/Shine TV)

Speaking of judges, I think I’ve fallen in love with one.

As you may’ve heard, I have recently taken on the glorious job of co-presenting Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby (a golden baton passed by Giles Coren, who’s been a total mensch). I was very nervous about meeting my co-host, Monica Galetti, above. Anyone who’s seen her on MasterChef will know that when judging contestants she’s more terrifying than a busload of High Court judges … exacting, smart and completely honest.

In person, she’s all those things, except also impossibly lovely. She’s kind, generous and gorgeous in every way. Also, and I can’t reveal too much, it turns out she’s got that capacity to transmute anything she touches into something exquisite, from arranging towels to arranging flowers to making beds, anything she touches becomes beautiful. The sign of a true artist.

I believe it’s the start of a lifelong romance. I can’t wait for you to see us in action.