The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers was founded in either 1929 or 1930. Early records were destroyed when a Luftwaffe bomb struck the Temple in 1941. Our first fifty years of history are recorded in Wigs and Workers: a History of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers 1930 – 1980 (Nick Blake and Harry Rajak, Haldane Society, 1980).

The Society was named for Viscount Richard Haldane, who, as a Liberal, had been Asquith’s Lord Chancellor from 1912 to 1915, when he was hounded out of office by the then, as ever, xenophobic Daily Mail. He moved leftwards politically, becoming the logical choice as Lord Chancellor when Britain’s first short-lived Labour Government came to power in 1924. By 1929, when Labour was elected again, Haldane himself was dead and Labour Party lawyers were still in very short supply. A small group of barristers formed the Haldane Club to provide legal expertise to the government, trade unions and co-operative movement.

Any chance of high office for early Haldane members evaporated when Ramsay MacDonald split the Labour Party and formed a National Government in 1931. Ever since, the Haldane Society has been a legal thorn in the side of every government, lobbying for law reforms, civil liberties and access to justice for all; supporting national liberation movements against colonialism and campaigning against racism and all forms of discrimination. We have had many distinguished members but judicial appointments and elevations to Queen’s Counsel have been conferred despite, not because of, membership in the Haldane Society.