Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to become the next leader of the Conservative party, faces a trial over accusations of misconduct in a public office for comments made in the run-up to the UK’s referendum on EU membership.
Mr Johnson must attend court for a preliminary hearing, District Judge Margot Coleman ruled.
“The allegations which have been made are unproven accusations and I do not make any findings of fact,” she said in a written statement. “Having considered all the relevant factors I am satisfied that this is a proper case to issue the summons as requested for the three offences as drafted.”
Her statement added: “The charges are indictable only. This means the proposed defendant will be required to attend this court for a preliminary hearing, and the case will then be sent to the Crown Court for trial.”
Mr Johnson behaved in an “irresponsible and dishonest” way when he claimed during the 2016 Brexit referendum that the UK sent £350m a week to the EU, a London court was told last week by lawyers representing a campaigner who wants to pursue a private criminal prosecution against the former foreign secretary.
Marcus Ball, 29, is launching a criminal charge of misconduct in a public office against the Conservative MP over the £350m figure emblazoned on a red bus used by the Vote Leave campaign.
He has raised almost £200,000 by crowdfunding the legal action and last Thursday his lawyers asked Westminster magistrates’ court to issue a summons that Mr Johnson should appear in court to answer the allegation.
The favourite to succeed Theresa May as prime minister, who was a backbench MP during the referendum campaign, was not at last week’s public hearing.
Lewis Power QC, acting for Mr Ball, told the court that the proposed prosecution was not a “political stunt” or about Brexit but was about the behaviour of those in public office.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney invited Raab to a dinner, presumably in order to get to know him better in a more relaxed setting.
Over dinner Raab floated the idea that the Border backstop problem in the Brexit negotiations could be solved by introducing a review clause enabling either side to unilaterally end the backstop after three months. The Irish in the room choked on their soup at the notion that Raab could think such a proposal would run. Even some of the British present had to restrain themselves from displaying shock. It was patently obvious to anyone engaged, even superficially, in the negotiations that a time-limited backstop and/or a unilateral exit provision was not a backstop at all.
Incredible to think that such a b@stard could think he’ll be the man to set things straight with the EU & the Irish government after Brexit. Besides the obvious disregard for the truth is a crippling lack of self awareness, undoubtedly the product of an over-developed sense of self-regard.On January 20th, the BBC’s Andrew Marr tried to nail Raab down on whether in fact the Government had ever told him that a time-limited backstop with a unilateral exit mechanism would be acceptable. Raab replied “I met with Simon Coveney, it was very clear that he wasn’t ruling things out. They got ruled out by Leo Varadkar, who is less moderate.”
A special investigation Raab then patronisingly went on to suggest that the Government had foolishly hoisted themselves into an unwinnable position on the backstop and “we need to give them a ladder to climb down”.
So incensed was the Government at what Raab told Marr that Coveney took to Twitter, unusually on a Sunday, to respond: “For the record Taoiseach and I have always been on the same page. We remain united and focused on protecting Ireland, that includes support for the implementation of the EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement in full.”
Johnson trustworthy? Like other buffoon leaders he uses that affectation to hide his naked ambition.The evidence would suggest the field is narrowing...that is the difference between the trustworthiness of the two front runners. Bojo is a buffoon but Raab’s record would suggest a more devious (thus more dangerous to my mind) personality. From the Irish Times today :
Incredible to think that such a b@stard could think he’ll be the man to set things straight with the EU & the Irish government after Brexit. Besides the obvious disregard for the truth is a crippling lack of self awareness, undoubtedly the product of an over-developed sense of self-regard.
Nice to see that the country still ranks in his top two priorities I suppose.
The scale of the degeneration is now quite startling. As expected, the Tory leadership race has created the worst possible dynamic for the party. Every day the contenders now have to say something even more vigorously insane than what they said before just to stay in contention.
The topic this week was prorogation. This would involve basically dismissing parliament so that the government can force through no-deal. Dominic Raab, egged on by the Tory Jacobins at the ERG, is seriously proposing this. We should call it what it is, or rather what we would call it if it were to take place in another country: a coup. A government without a majority would be dismissing the democratically-elected assembly in order to implement an extreme policy measure for which it has no mandate.
In reality, there are several legal protections against this course of action. None of them are watertight, but the British constitution should be just about robust enough to deal with anyone foolish enough to try it. John Bercow would prevent it. This would involve a vote if parliament was already sitting. Or, if it wasn't, it would possibly see it decide to sit independently of government, a kind of village panto version of the English Civil War. And if all that failed, the Queen, poor thing, could intervene. And after that the courts. One of those things, almost certainly the first, would work. But it's revealing, and quite unutterably ghastly, that it is being mentioned.
Raab is pitching to the right of Boris Johnson, which is not as lonely a space as you might imagine. Esther McVey has found it, and followed the path from there to the outer limits of the reservation, and then just kept on walking. This week she called for a purge of all Remain voters from Cabinet. Last week, she demanded that Britain create an 'invisible border' in Ireland before October. Perhaps she wanted Wonder Woman to arrive with her invisible plane and help with the construction effort. Andrea Leadsom is there too, ruling out even an attempt at renegotiation and demanding no-deal. Insanity is a hot ticket in summer 2019.
It's like watching a documentary about an Amazonian tribe which has never had contact with human civilisation. You watch fascinated as they go around their bizarre rituals, like reciting Article 24 of the GATT or talking in Bizarro world opposites about the effects of US free trade agreements. The only way you could possibly say this stuff, or worse yet believe it, is if you had given up all interest in the outside world for a sustained period of time.
The EU will not get rid of the backstop. The plan with the backstop will not get through parliament. These are the realities. They've been the realities for some time and it is tiresome to have to keep on repeating them. They are the basic building blocks around which you need to formulate your policy. But instead of doing so the candidates have magicked up some alternate reality where these things do not apply.
What a tedious thing to base an imaginary world on. They could have at least have invented jet packs, or great roving digital dinosaurs soaring through the sky. Instead we get this maddening rubix cube of nonsense.
Almost every candidate, from the swivel-eyed, like Raab, to the more reasonable, like Michael Gove, want to fix the backstop problem using the legendary "alternative arrangements" long proposed by the ERG. It is quite remarkable the way this phrase has entered the debate without anyone ever really asking what it actually designates. It is so profoundly childlike. They do not like Scenario A, so they propose Scenario B. What is Scenario B? Well, it's an alternative. And what is the alternative? Not A. And round and round we go, on a logic loop. It's like watching your own brain swirl down a drain.
There are certain things you can do to reduce the friction on borders, including trusted traders schemes, pre-and-post crossing declarations, information sharing between customs authorities and hands-off high-tech surveillance. But this is a million miles from the sci-fi fantasy land the mythical 'alternative arrangements' have occupied.
They would still involve checks on the border for food products. They would involve checks away from the border for other issues, and this infrastructure would be no less a piece of infrastructure by virtue of being a few miles off. They would still raise the problem of what you do when a lorry approaches which has not become a trusted trader. Do you let it pass and risk any old rubbish come into your territory? Or do you stop it and create a de facto border? Most importantly of all, they would still be installed without the consent of the communities who actually live there, on either side of the border.
Still. No need to worry about that. Alternative arrangements will save us. We can use these imaginary solutions to win an imaginary negotiation with the EU, conducted under an imaginary time frame, and then pass an imaginary bill which will receive the imaginary consent of an imaginary House of Commons. Job done.
That is where the Conservative party is right now. This is the mental space it occupies. And the only time it rears its head out of the fairy tale, it threatens - in a way that is genuinely alarming - the basic democratic functions upon which the country operates. It is a pitiful, godawful state of affairs. And there's weeks more of it to go.
Thursday, 13 June 2019 7:36 PM
By Jonathan Lis
We know life is unfair and countries, like people, don't always get happy endings. Today our party of government more or less confirmed that Boris Johnson would be the steward of our definitive national decline, and couldn't give a damn if the 65.9 million non-members of the Conservative party like it or not. After all, people without private jets don't get to choose their pilots, so there's no reason why people without Tory voting slips should get to choose their prime minister.
114 Tory MPs opted for Johnson in the first round of votes for the new leader. If there was a crumb of comfort, it was that 199 (almost two-thirds) did not. You thought for an optimistic moment that maybe they saw through him after all. And then you remembered that 47 had voted for the combined personality-free Brexit death cult of Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey.
Why did Johnson win? Easy. It's because the Tories think he can help them to win. Like a father who attempts to play Barry Manilow at his teenager's rave, the Conservatives do not fundamentally understand popularity and are several years out of date when they try. It's true, Johnson may have been popular – and that word is doing heavy lifting – in the late 2000s. 'BoJo' was the Conservative for people who loved to mock Conservatives, liberal enough for Highgate dinner parties but still neo-colonial enough for the Spectator magazine. He could simultaneously inhabit the born-to-rule Etonian for those who wanted to tug forelocks, and parody it for those who wanted to enjoy a joke.
But those days ended on the morning of 24th June 2016. Johnson had led the country through the most cynical and dishonest election campaign it had ever seen. People jeered as he drove out of his house. Young people, liberals and Remainers in general didn't find the ex-mayor as funny now he had destroyed their futures. Play-time was over, and so was the electoral magic.
But Johnson does have something going for him: his loyal followers. This phenomenon he shares with the President of the United States. Johnson is every bit as dishonest, solipsistic and malevolent as Donald Trump, and as emphatically lazy, erratic and ineffective. Neither deserves the power or adulation they have mysteriously accrued. And yet, to echo Trump's famous line about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue and still topping the polls, literally nothing Johnson does seems able to hurt him. The cavern of lies, misdeeds and personality flaws which would incapacitate most other politicians are, we are told, "priced in'', despite the fact he has nothing of value to sell. Even today's revelations that, as foreign secretary, he allegedly told EU ambassadors he was personally in favour of free movement of people, thus privately torpedoing both his government and his own Brexit campaign (full disclosure: I revealed it), will do nothing to dent his popularity with the party faithful. Remainer? Leaver? Hypocrite? Chancer? Just call him Boris and enjoy the thrill.
The key consolation – let's face it, the only consolation - is that Johnson's honeymoon will last all of a few weeks. If Downing Street looked brutal for Theresa May, you haven't seen what's waiting for her successor. Johnson craves power, but will be unable to do anything with it.
There is literally no way that he emerges from his first few months as prime minister with credibility or appeal. If he opts for a rapid election, as some suspect – no doubt on a platform of no-deal – then he will face a comprehensive mauling. A genuine coalition stretching from the Tory centre to the Corbyn left will unite against him. If parliament forces his government out by a vote of no-confidence, he will encounter the same fate. The European elections demonstrate that a large majority of voters reject no-deal, and they will certainly not waive their disgust just to appease Johnson.
If, on the other hand, Johnson goes for no-deal without an election, parliament will do all it can to stop him and the Speaker, John Bercow, will do everything he can to assist. If MPs want a vote either to revoke Article 50 or to force a request to extend it, Bercow will find a way for them. That leaves Johnson either extending Article 50 and forfeiting all his early goodwill, or returning to the earlier scenario of a ruinous general election. And in the remotest possibility that we do end up crashing out of the EU with no deal, the prime minister will find himself blamed, despised and forced back to Brussels. Put simply, no sooner will he enter Downing Street than he'll sign a short time-delayed warrant for his removal.
So we'll be honest about this. Today was dispiriting. You may wail, lament and mourn, longing for the old rational country whose prime ministers displayed basic fitness to lead. But even if we have struck disaster with Johnson, he won't in all likelihood be steering us for long and we will almost certainly avoid the worst of the rocks. He can't change the current parliament, and if he tries, he can't change the electorate. Whatever he attempts will fail, the country will turn on him, and eventually he'll want to leave. Perhaps Johnson will achieve his life-long ambition, realise he never even wanted it, and it will be the happiest ending for both him and us.