Appeal Court Judge in Overturned Labour Leadership Case has Strong Links to Tony Blair

15th August 2016 / United Kingdom

Sir Philip James Sales (born 11 February 1962), styled The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Sales, is a British Lord Justice of Appeal.

He was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1985. In 1997, he was recruited as First Junior Treasury Counsel, effectively a full-time private practitioner barrister who represented the UK government in the civil courts.

At the time of the appointment of Sales, there was uproar. According to The Guardian, a source close to the case referred to the law firm Sales worked for as a “network of old boys and cronies”, and that there was “no coincidence that the appointment came from Tony Blair’s old chambers”. Sales was considered far too young and inexperienced for such a role and the appointment raised many eyebrows and caused considerable anger as more experienced barristers were much more qualified.

Sales used to be a practising barrister at law chambers 11KBW, of which former Prime Minister Tony Blair was not just an employee but a founder member. At 11KBW they boast that they “combine a strong focus on clients’ needs with an unparalleled ability to navigate the law.” And they do. Clearly.

During the reign of Tony Blair, Philip Sales meteoric rise made a QC of him in 2006, deputy judge of the High Court from 2004-2008, and judge of the High Court of Justice (Chancery Division) since 2008. He has been a Judge of the Court of Appeal since July 2014 and of course, was knighted for his struggles to the top.

By 2003, The Evening Standard reported that Sir Philip Sales QC had charged the taxpayer £3.3million over the six year period as First Treasury Counsel, a full-time position he has held since his appointment by Tony Blair in 1997.

It is here that the judicial pillar of society conflicts with the political.

EvolvePolitics has just reported that: “In what is a consolation victory for the Labour Party’s establishment in the Court of Appeal, it has been revealed by WikiLeaks that there may be more to the decision than meets the eye.” This is with reference to a previous High Court decision to allow 130,000 disenfranchised Labour Party members to vote in the up and coming hotly contested Labour leadership battle between Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn. Over 1,700 people donated £30,000 to fight a crowdfunded legal action and won their case in the High Court but just a week later lost on appeal.

The Court of Appeal heard the case and ruled that Labour’s original ruling did have the legal right to block 130,000 new members from voting in the Labour leadership election. Iain McNicol, the Labour party’s general secretary, led the appeal against the previous ruling given by Mr Justice Hickinbottom.

Looking a little deeper and some interesting characters and associates rise to the surface. It is no secret that Tony Blair despises Jeremy Corbyn. Blair has attacked Corbyn at every opportunity possible including that over matters such as the Iraq war, Syria, the EU referendum and accused him of enciting a ‘politics of protest’, dismissed him a “guy with a placard” and suggested he is incapable of making the important decisions required of such high office. Tony Blair is clearly doing everything possible to ensure that Corbyn does not succeed in his bid to become the next Prime Minister.

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Perhaps then, it should come as no surprise that the decision at the appeal court to overrule the High Court was made by none other than – The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Sales, the long time friend and insider of Tony Blair. Incidentally, Sales was originally ‘sounded out’ all those years ago and recommended to Blair by an even closer friend, Lord Falconer, Solicitor-General and serial defender of Blair over the Iraq war.

Lord Falconer shared a flat with former prime minister Tony Blair during their time as young barristers in the 1970s and was one of Tony Blair’s closest allies during the build-up to the Iraq war. Eventually, after overwhelming evidence, Falconer conceded only that the invasion of Iraq was simply “a mistake” – a ‘mistake’ that has since seen a million people killed, countless more injured and millions driven from their homes.

Jeremy Corbyn has practically accused Tony Blair of being a war criminal and that he should stand trial: “We went into a war that was catastrophic, that was illegal, that cost us a lot of money, that lost a lot of lives” Corbyn told Newsnight in August. “The consequences are still played out with migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, refugees all over the region,” he said.

In completing the circle, it was Falconer who recommended Philip Sales to Blair who in turn ended up defending the New Labour government’s decision against holding a public inquiry into the Iraq War in the High Court in 2005. The Inquiry was eventually announced (after considerable political pressure) in 2009 by Gordon Brown but was headed by Sir John Chilcot. Chilcot was knighted by Tony Blair in 1997 after clandestine meetings with the former prime Minister over Northern Ireland in what even The Daily Mail described as “The very cosy friendship between Iraq inquiry chief and Tony Blair“. And whilst the Chilcot report was highly critical of Tony Blair it did not fully answer all the questions asked by many that has allowed him to simply walk away with little more than reputational damage.

In TruePublica’s self interest, bearing in mind we are dealing with the most powerful individuals stalking the land, we should also mention that from a legal perspective – there is no evidence of actual wrongdoing, only that of a conflict of interest exits in the case of Sales and Blair. 

However, it is worth pointing out that Philip Sales has built deep connections within the Labour party throughout the years that Blair was in office. A key decision in the High Court was over-turned, ruling in favour of Labour’s Executive Committee but more crucially against Jeremy Corbyn. Many will be asking questions of the relationship between Sales, Blair and Labour’s elite and the legitimacy of a ruling that favours a political outcome to that of a legal one.

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