The post of Lord Chief Justice has been in Jewish hands before: the previous incumbent, Lord Woolf, was born into a Newcastle Jewish family. But Lord Phillips, who steps down in October, is from solid Anglo-Saxon stock. Or is he?
Just take a look at the name. Nicholas Addison Phillips is not a Yiddishe moniker. Neither is his background remotely Jewish. He had a genteel upbringing attending Bryanston School in Dorset before serving in the Royal Navy, where he was a commissioned officer, noch. In fact, when he qualified as a barrister, Lord Phillips specialised in maritime law. We Jews like to wander, but we tend to do it on dry land. There seems nothing remotely kosher about him.
And yet, in a speech this week — admittedly given at the East London Muslim Centre — he spoke of his maternal grandparents, two young immigrants to this country. Said Lord Phillips: “They were Sephardic Jews and had eloped to this country from Alexandria because they understood that England was a country in which they would enjoy freedom.” One Jewish barrister was staggered when he heard the news, saying: “It’s like the Pope announcing he’s Jewish.” And yet the signs are there if you look for them. Lord Phillips is, after all a lawyer; he lives in Hampstead; and he has quite bushy eyebrows. Weird that no one guessed before, then.
Jewish as charged, m’lud.