Not up to the job or a face that does not fit? Are criticisms of Liz Truss fair?

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Elizabeth Truss arrives at the annual Lord Ma

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Elizabeth Truss arrives at the annual Lord Mayor's Banquet at Mansion House, central London. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The architect of a number of high profile gaffes who deserves to be reshuffled, or a minister unfairly targeted for having a face that doesn't fit?

South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss has rarely been out of the headlines since she became the first female Lord Chancellor.

This week an anonymous cabinet minister has been briefing that she is at risk of having her department broken up, or losing her job in a reshuffle, after a string of negative headlines.

Yet supporters maintains she is doing a good job and judicial self-interest is at the heart of some of the attacks.

Michael Gove, her predecessor who also worked with her at the Department for Education, described her as a 'highly effective minister and a real reformer'.


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'She is doing exactly the right thing to improve prisons and make sure our courts work better. Reformers inevitably encounter opposition, but Liz is a highly intelligent and gutsy minister who is getting all the big decisions right and I have the highest regard for her,' he said. Finding friends of the Lord Chancellor in the judiciary is a tough task.

In Norfolk, a former senior worker in the criminal justice system remains angry that she failed to defend 'outstanding' Court of Appeal judges who gave a balanced judgement based upon statutes and common-law from 'hysterical press attacks'.

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'Her lack of knowledge of how the court system works and the laws of evidence in dealing with criminal trials is self evident,' he said.

England's most senior judge Lord Thomas used a select committee last month to claim Ministry of Justice officials had 'misunderstood' a rape case evidence reform announcement 'completely,'

And the ire in some quarters of the judiciary is said to have deepened after Ms Truss backed rules which will block Sir Brian Leveson, who was the chairman of the inquiry into press standards, from taking on England's top legal post because of his age.

This week the cross-party Justice Select Committee panned her plans for prison league tables claiming they were 'not a useful means' to assess prison performance and would 'mask' problems within jails.

And doubt has been cast on her ability to bring in proposals to hike probate - the fee paid to administer a large estate when someone dies.

While there are those who maintain it is her lack of knowledge which justifies the criticism, others believe she is being unfairly targeted.

A female colleague and close friend, also from the 2010 intake of Conservative MPs, suggests that the briefing against Ms Truss is an example of 'everyday sexism'.

The ally claims there is 'no way' Ms Truss would be attracting as much negative comment if she was a man.

'I think she is doing a good job from what I can tell, she has got more money out of the Treasury; there are not many people who can do that.'

But other allies suggest it is more about her lack of legal background.

The senior former criminal justice worker in Norfolk, who did not want to be named, said he felt it is essential that anybody appointed as Lord Chancellor should have knowledge from practice of the court system. He said the argument that a non-lawyer could bring a new perspective had not stood up with either Chris Grayling or Liz Truss.

But the usually acerbic Daily Mail parliamentary sketchwriter Quentin Letts unusually jumped to Ms Truss' defence, writing that: 'Judicial snoots, who regard non-lawyers as a lower class of life' had been appalled that Ms Truss was not only the third non-lawyer in a row to be placed in political charge of the judiciary, but also the first female Lord Chancellor in the 1,000 or so years since that grand post was established.

Whether criticisms of Ms Truss' policies and anonymous briefings will knock her career off course is yet to be seen.

She survived an attempted de-selection by her constituency party when they got wind of an extra-marital affair, and she is no stranger to controversy from her time the education and environment departments.

Government sources insist there are no plans to break up Ms Truss' department and hand the Lord Chancellor role to someone with legal experience.

Whether prime minister Theresa May will be swayed is yet to be seen.

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