The writer is an FT contributing editor
The unattractive politics of Donald Trump quickly nominating Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the US Supreme Court has prompted some self-congratulation in the UK. Things are done differently here, is the comforting thought, for the appointment of judges is not politicised.
The truth is, however, that in England and Wales at least (Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legal systems) there has always been a substantial overlap of law and politics: it is just that the British are rather good at pretending otherwise.
Take the historical appointment of judges. Until the previous century, it was practice that the senior office of the lord chief justice, who presided over the most serious criminal trials, followed political service. Similarly, attorneys-general retiring from parliament were often made High Court judges. There was much fluidity between the political and judicial establishments.
At the apex of…