Keith Ewing: Professor Anthony Bradley – An Appreciation (Part One)


Tony Bradley, one of the United Kingdom’s greatest constitutional and administrative lawyers, died peacefully at his home in Cumnor, Oxfordshire on 20 December 2021, age 87.  He lived an extraordinarily full professional life as a teacher, examiner, author, editor, administrator, solicitor, barrister, and adjudicator.  Tony’s academic writing spanned seven decades: his first publication appeared in the Cambridge Law Journal in 1961, and his last piece was published in the Connecticut Law Review in 2021, shortly before he died. A number of obituaries have now been written, including those by Owen Bowcott in the Guardian, and Michael Adler and Chris Himsworth in the Scotsman.  There is an obituary now published in Public Law, which Tony edited between 1986 and 1991.  Rather than repeat here what I wrote there, I thought I would take this opportunity to stand back and reflect on Tony’s role as a teacher, colleague, mentor, co-author and friend.


Tony was born in Dover in 1934.  He subsequently applied to study history at Emmanuel College, Cambridge before switching to law, and graduated with first class honours in both the BA in 1957, and the LLB (with distinction) in 1958.  Thereafter he qualified as a solicitor, articled to the Town Clerk in Reading before applying for a position at the University of Cambridge in 1960, where he also became a fellow of Trinity Hall.  His appointment coincided with Ivor Jennings’ tenure as Master (of the college), and he will have worked with a formidable team of young public law scholars, including Colin Turpin, Geoffrey Wilson, and latterly David Williams.  On leaving Cambridge in 1968, Tony developed his academic career at Edinburgh as Professor of Constitutional Law, until his retirement at the age of 55 in 1989, before embarking on a life at the English Bar.   

I first encountered Tony as a fresher at the University of Edinburgh in 1972, where he gave the bulk of the lectures in Constitutional and Administrative Law.  Already a major figure in the field, he aroused in me a great fascination for Public Law which has never dimmed, and which by his example he continued to encourage.  I retain a vivid memory of these classes, and for some reason the lecture on Sir Thomas Dugdale and the Crichel Down affair stands out, of which I was reminded by the recent resignation of the Treasury minister, Lord Agnew, on 24 January 2022.  It was there that I was introduced to E C S Wade and Godfrey Phillips, Constitutional and Administrative Law (8th edition), not expecting that the book would remain with me for the rest of my life, but preferring it then to De Smith despite the latter’s advantage of being more competitively priced.  

Tony also contributed to the teaching of a specialist Administrative Law course, as well as a course on Welfare Law and Administration which I believe with others he helped to establish.  I still have the reading lists and notes from these classes some 50 years later, as well as my copy of the prescribed Beveridge Report which then could be bought for just over £1 from the HMSO shop in Castle Street, Edinburgh.  Richly contextualised, Welfare Law and Administration introduced students to emerging failures of the welfare state in books such as J C Kincaid’s Poverty and Equality in Britain (Penguin Books, 1973), and K Coates and R Silburn, Poverty: The Forgotten Englishmen (Penguin Books, 1973 ed).  These were just as important as Harry Calvert’s ground-breaking Social Security Law (Sweet and Maxwell, 1974), and the decisions of the National Insurance Commissioners. 

Looking back, the latter were really pioneering courses, unrecognisable I suspect in many law departments/faculties/schools today.  Suffice to say that classes were eagerly anticipated and immensely enjoyed.  Gently shepherding the discussion, Tony provided a stimulating intellectual environment, interested in the views of his students, and encouraging their full expression.   Although he is best known today as a constitutional and administrative lawyer, Tony was otherwise much concerned with social security law.  He was a national insurance local tribunal and supplementary benefits appeal tribunal chairman, and together with his friend and colleague Michael Adler, the editor of an important volume on Justice, Discretion and Poverty (Professional Books, 1975), concerned principally with the operation of the social security tribunal system. 

After graduating in 1976, I re-established contact with Tony in 1978, having been appointed to a lectureship in Edinburgh following Breen Creighton’s departure to Melbourne.  Tony was head of department and for part of the time Dean while I was at Edinburgh between 1978 and 1983; as he reminded me recently he was also my supervisor in the third year of my PhD. As head of department, Tony was kind (as a young member of staff starting out I had a very gentle teaching load); he was supportive and encouraging (reading closely and commenting generously on early writings); and he was open and tolerant, and indeed welcomed a wide range of diverse opinions.   As a teacher, administrator or scholar, he invariably did more than his fair share, though it is only since he died that I have become aware of the full extent of the professional burden he carried.

After leaving Edinburgh for a second time in 1983, I re-established contact with Tony again in 1989, when he was now in the process of going to the Bar, having accepted the opportunity to join Cloisters.  Tony asked me to work with him on the 11th edition of his textbook, and we continued to work together (latterly with Chris Knight) until the 16th edition in 2015.  Tony only stepped down at the age of 80 plus, which now seems extraordinary, though he might have done so earlier, had we not been so reluctant for him to stop.  A major presence in my life for almost 50 years, I count it as a great blessing to have known Tony and to have worked with him in all that time.  His kindness, generosity, and humility were exceptional, just as his commitment to public service, his total mastery of the discipline, and his substantial international footprint were inspiring.


Beginning with public service and public engagement, Tony taught by example that the proper role of the professor is not confined to the classroom or the meeting room.  He served on government committees, including the Stodart Committee on Local Government in Scotland, and he was active in what we refer to today as NGOs, being chair of the Scottish Civil Liberties Trust, as well as the Edinburgh Council for Single Homeless.  He took to the newspapers from time to time to educate and inform, covering a wide range of constitutional questions in the Independent, the Guardian, the Scotsman, the Edinburgh Evening News, and the Financial Times, criticising the excesses of government, whether it be the Thatcher government’s failures in relation to civil liberties, or the Johnson administration’s failures to respect parliamentary government.  He invariably wrote to good effect, his article in the Independent about the search warrants issued to raid the BBC premises in Glasgow during the so-called Zircon affair the subject of lively exchanges in the Commons.

More importantly perhaps, Tony appeared regularly before House of Commons Select Committees addressing questions such as constitutional conventions, parliamentary privilege, fixed-term Parliaments, parliamentary sovereignty, and the implications of writing down the constitution.  He was also the inaugural legal adviser to the House of Lords Constitution Committee following its creation in 2002, and he continued to engage with the Committee after he stood down from his formal role in 2005.  Advice provided to the Committee during the enactment of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 was sufficiently notable that it was published in order to give it a wider readership.  His work was respected across the political spectrum: for the SNP’s Joanna Cherry (a former pupil) speaking in a debate on judicial independence, Tony was someone whose advice ‘politicians should aspire to follow’; while for arch Euro-sceptic Bill Cash, he was ‘the greatest constitutional authority that we have in this country’.  Tony was a committed European.

Turning to his scholarship, Tony was a generalist in Constitutional and Administrative Law, with an understanding and knowledge of the subject which is probably unrivalled.  This was undoubtedly aided by his 50-year commitment to textbook writing, and relates in part to my previous point about his aim to reach out beyond the four walls of the university.  Wade and Phillips was first published in 1931, responding to ‘a need for a single volume on the legal aspect of English government’.  Tony joined Professor E C S Wade for the 7th edition published in 1965, and was to write subsequently that his aim had been to provide readers with ‘an informed understanding of the structure of law and government under which they live, and the values of democracy and constitutionalism that underlie that structure’.  As a senior member of the Bar said to me shortly after Tony’s death, this was a profoundly important objective, particularly in a country like the United Kingdom where constitutional structure is hard to find.

But of course Tony was not only a man of great breadth.  He also wrote pioneering work of great depth, opening up the field of Administrative Law in Scotland, which at the time was in its infancy.  His seminal Scottish Law Commission report on Remedies in Administrative Law was described with great Scottish understatement as ‘an important and original contribution to the literature of the law of Scotland’.  He also contributed with other leading public law scholars to the development of Administrative Law more widely, founding with Professor Jack Garner of Nottingham University the Administrative Law Group of law teachers from British law schools, and participating in the influential Justice/All Souls Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Patrick Neill QC, for which he convened the Scottish Working Group.  He was one of the first public lawyers to write about the Ombudsman, and one of the first seriously to engage with incorporation of the ECHR and the means by which this might be done.

As an internationalist, Tony had a keen interest in Commonwealth affairs that can be traced back at least to his days at Trinity Hall, when he spent time with his family as a Visiting Reader at the University of Dar-es-Salaam.  He maintained a continuing commitment to the Commonwealth throughout his professional life, his work with the Commonwealth Secretariat taking him to multiple jurisdictions to give seminars on various aspects of constitutional and administrative law.  As a recognised legal authority, Tony’s work was relied on by legal practitioners as well as politicians and civil servants, and frequently cited on a wide range of questions by judges throughout the Commonwealth and beyond, including to my knowledge Bangladesh, Canada, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mauritius, Namibia, New Zealand, the Pitcairn Islands, South Africa, and Uganda (there are no doubt others) – as well as by judges in all the leading courts in the United Kingdom.

As already indicated, Tony was also a strongly committed European, despite early concerns expressed in 1977 that ‘the democratic base of the EEC is seriously defective when compared with a national constitution’.  But these concerns were to be overcome as the EU’s constitutional arrangements evolved, Tony circulating to friends three weeks before the Brexit referendum in 2016 an article by J D B Mitchell published in the Scotsman a few months after the EEC referendum on 26 February 1975.  In the article in question Mitchell welcomed the 1975 result and with it the opportunity to be able to ‘build and shape Europe from the inside, rather than simply suffering from the outside’.  Perhaps more significant than the article was the poignant note from Tony, by which it was accompanied.  The note recalled testimony of Mitchell, who had been a POW from 1940 to 1943, having been injured at Dunkirk.  Mitchell explained how in 1939 he had ‘fought for human values in a sane society’, and that ‘those who think like me see no choice [for Europe] but steady integration’.

Professor Anthony Wilfred Bradley QC, 6 February 1934 – 20 December 2021.

My thanks to Chris Himsworth for his advice in writing this appreciation.

K D Ewing, King’s College London

Editors’ note: Part Two of this tribute to AW Bradley will be published tomorrow.

(Suggested citation: K. D. Ewing, ‘Professor Anthony Bradley – An Appreciation (Part One)’, U.K. Const. L. Blog (14th March 2022) (available at