BORIS THE OLD LAG
Oh how I wish that it had been some demented campaigner for the remain side who had been summonsed to court for misconduct in public office. That is not because I want any of those sad people to be clapped in irons. On the contrary, I favour the old approach, which was that the voters, not the courts, decided which side should win public votes. No, my regret that it is not some twit like Lord Adonis who is being prosecuted is brought about by my very strong feeling that this latest nonsense must be stamped out. Some of my dimmer readers (is that an oxymoron?) may, when they read this piece, run away with the idea that I only object to the courts replacing the electorate because the victim, Mr Johnson, is on the same side as I am in the Brexit debate. But that is totally false. If Adonis or Osborne had been hauled off to the Old Bailey for telling all those lies (and there were masses of them) during the referendum campaign, I would have been the first to come to their defence. Obviously, I wouldn’t have said they were right to lie through their teeth. But I would have been horrified at the suggestion that the judiciary rather than the electorate should judge them.
It is slightly amusing that this prosecution of Boris Johnson has happened at just the time that Lord Sumption has been delivering the Reith Lectures. Sumption’s theme has been the incursion of the courts into the world of politics. And here we are seeing a judge deciding that a politician should be prosecuted for what he said in the course of a referendum campaign. It is not surprising, I suppose, that many commentators have suggested that this latest attack on a Conservative politician is a symptom of a serious disease in the judiciary.
There can be no doubt that the decision taken by the Westminster Magistrate to issue a summons requiring Boris Johnson to face a charge, in the Old Bailey, of misconduct in public office was wholly wrong. The magistrate’s judgment was plainly misconceived. First, she was wrong to hold that Mr Johnson’s speeches during the referendum campaign were made in his capacity as Mayor of London, rather than as a mere politician seeking votes. Secondly, her one sentence dismissal of the submission that the man behind the prosecution was engaging in politics, rather than pursuing justice, was against all the evidence (she accepted that he started off saying his aim was to stop Brexit but he then deleted all references to Brexit on his website – after his lawyers advised him they weren’t helpful – and that, she held, meant his aim was no longer political). That, obviously, was a nonsensical conclusion for the magistrate to come to.
But the political commentators are quite wrong. The magistrate was not representing a move by an evil judiciary to replace the electorate. I have no idea whether she was motivated by a love of the EU and a hatred of those of us who voted for independence. I would guess that was not why she came to her wrong decision. I have read her judgment. It reads rather like a second rate law student’s essay. She was simply out of her depth. Had the decision been one for a proper, senior, judge, the application would have been thrown out with no hesitation at all. The senior judges, or most of them, have no desire to replace the electorate.
It is sad that the new Director of Public Prosecutions has not felt brave enough to take over the prosecution of Mr Johnson and withdraw the charges. But he has not been in place for long and it is understandable that he fears his intervention in this case would lead to the end of his career if Labour wins the next election. We must now wait to see whether the Divisional Court, which is, tomorrow, to hear Mr Johnson’s application for permission judicially to review the magistrate’s decision, will be braver than the DPP.
I will have a little more to say about the Left’s (and even some of the Right’s) horrible rudeness in a day or two. But there is something even more disagreeable about the behaviour of many on the Left. The many, I should say, include masses of people who don’t actually commit the assaults I shall describe but who applaud the acts of the assailants.
I think it started with an egg being thrown at Mr Corbyn. The man who did it was sent to prison for 28 days. Everyone agrees he was wrong to do what he did. Then someone else threw a milk shake at Nigel Farage. The Left rose up, as one, to approve the assault. I don’t know whether the criminal has been charged, but I think we can all be sure, since the victim was only Nigel Farage, that no magistrate would dream of imposing a prison sentence. Never mind. There are reasonable grounds for holding that the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition deserves more protection from the state than a mere ordinary politician.
But what about a harmless eighty-one-year-old gentleman who happens to support the Brexit Party and who agrees to act as a teller at his local polling station? Is he fair game? Many on the Left think he is. Certainly, a thirty something chap had no doubt. He saw the old man sitting on a chair outside the polling station. He saw the light blue rosette. He saw a cafe. He went in, bought a milk shake and came out. Then he threw the milk shake over the old man. And, goodness, how pleased with himself he was. And how pleased with him were most readers of and contributors to the Guardian newspaper.
Let’s move on to the demonstration against the President of the USA. You probably saw it. A wonderful employee of the NHS, called Siobhan, saw an American tourist who seemed to approve of his president. Siobhan knew her duty. She rushed up to the tourist, spat at him and shouted that he was a Nazi and a fascist. Again, the Left applauded Siobhan for her brilliant action.
I am told there have been several other milk shake assaults and that the Left generally thinks that, so long as the assaults are directed at people to the right of Momentum, they are a jolly good thing.
Many of you agree that throwing milk shakes over people with whom you disagree is frightfully good fun. But I have to say that I don’t go along with you. Maybe you don’t know how much it costs to dry clean a suit. Or maybe you are just plain nasty.