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Dominic Grieve

Position: Attorney General 2010-

Last Updated: Friday, March 25th, 2011

The name of Dominic Grieve has been in the media rather more than usual these last couple of weeks. As David Cameron’s Attorney General, he was responsible for formally dispensing the legal advice which stated that there was a “clear and unequivocal” legal basis for the military action against Libya.

In opposition, the mild-mannered barrister had briefly held one of the highest ranking jobs in the shadow cabinet, although he now spends most of his time away from the limelight as the Government’s senior law officer.

Born in 1956, politics has been a part of his life since he was in short trousers: his father, Sir Percy Grieve, was elected MP for Solihull in 1964 when Grieve Jr was just 8 years old, but he confesses to having been a keen deliverer of campaign literature then and throughout his father’s political career (he left the Commons in 1983).

Educated at Westminster, he went on to read Modern History at Oxford (where he was President of the University Conservative Association) and after his legal studies was called to the Bar in 1980.

His political activities continued whilst he pursued a legal career, serving as a councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham between 1982 and 1986 (where he was chairman of the housing committee); contesting Norwood at the 1987 general election; serving as vice chairman of Fulham Conservative Association between 1988 and 1991; and chairing the Research Committee of the Society of Conservative Lawyers between 1992 and 1995.

His arrival in Parliament at the 1997 general election as MP for Beaconsfield could not have been foretold even a month before polling day, despite it being an ultra-safe Tory seat: Grieve was in fact the last Conservative candidate to be selected after sitting Beaconsfield MP Tim Smith’s eve-of-election decision to quit over his financial dealings involving Mohamed Fayed.

It was clear from the off that he was a thoughtful and far-from-reactionary Tory: in his maiden speech he spoke in favour of incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. More than a decade later, once ensconced on the frontbench and having to promote a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act, he continued to insist the problem was the interpretation of the HRA rather than the ECHR itself – see here: http://j.mp/hk4RH4 .

He was promoted to the frontbench by William Hague in 1999 as a spokesman on Scotland (at a time when there were no Tory MPs north of the border) and he then served Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard and David Cameron as a shadow criminal justice minister, also doubling up as shadow Attorney General from November 2003.

During this time he worked closely with shadow home secretary David Davis – his first choice for the leadership in both 2001 and 2005 and a fellow civil libertarian – and played a key role in stopping the Blair Government from introducing 90-day detention without trial in 2005. For his efforts, the Spectator made him their Parliamentarian of the Year.

However, he remained outside the shadow cabinet and when he was made a QC in 2008, some wondered whether he might not return to the Bar.

However, when David Davis resigned from Parliament (and by default the shadow cabinet) to fight his seat in a by-election on the issue of civil liberties in the summer of 2008, it was Grieve who got the call from Cameron to fill his boots as shadow home secretary.

But he only turned out to be a stop gap in that role: whilst a formidable Commons debater and the possessor of a fine legal brain, many felt he lacked the common touch which that role often requires. It was also widely rumoured that the then Sun editor Rebekah Wade had been so aghast at his liberal views after a dinner with him that she let it be known that the paper would struggle to endorse the Conservatives whilst he was still in that role.

So in early 2009 he was shifted to the shadow justice portfolio, which he held until the general election – after which he was, of course, appointed Attorney General in the Coalition Government.

He is also now one of those Government members who is having to wage a careful campaign on behalf of constituents opposed to the proposed route of the High Speed Rail link (although in his case only about 600 yards of track is scheduled to cut through his constituency, far less than his Buckinghamshire colleagues, Cheryl Gillan and David Lidington.

Grieve is married with two teenage sons and is bilingual in English and French, the latter being his mother’s mother tongue.

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