CLEAR the country’s prison cells, because there could be busloads of new inmates arriving – and they’re far craftier and less trustworthy than the current lot.
For as Boris Johnson is hauled before the courts over claims that he lied to voters during the 2016 EU referendum campaign, it seems that political argument is now a crime.
6 Boris Johnson is facing a court case over claims that £350milion would go to the NHSCredit: Getty – Contributor
And if that is the case, there will hardly be an honourable member who isn’t in danger of swapping the house for the big house.
The farcical case focuses on Johnson’s claim that leaving the EU would enable the UK to spend an extra £350m a week on the health service.
His Vote Leave campaign bus famously bore the legend ‘We send the EU £350m a week – let’s fund our NHS instead’. For that offence three years ago, Boris now stands accused of ‘misconduct in public office’.
Even our clunking Crown Prosecution Service would not be stupid enough to think that the case of the misleading bus has wheels. Boris has been targeted in a private prosecution brought by a Remain crusader called Marcus Ball.
6 Marcus Ball is crowdfunding a private prosecutionCredit: PA:Press Association
Mr Ball and his extraordinary case should have been kicked straight out of court. Instead he found a sympathetic ear in District Judge Margot Coleman, who has ruled that Johnson be ‘sent to Crown Court for trial’.
This is nothing less than a political stunt designed to discredit the case for Brexit. It is an attack on democracy and free speech.
It not only suggests that Brexit-backing politicians are mis-leaders and liars. It also says that 17.4m Leave voters are stupid enough to be fooled by what they read on a big red bus.
The £350m-a-week figure is controversial. What is not in doubt, however, is that the UK is the second-biggest net contributor to EU coffers after Germany, handing over billions a year. The demand to take back control of our money has been a key part of the case of Brexit.
6 The big red bus was emblazoned with the claim, backed by Vote LeaveCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Boris’s £350m line was only one of many questionable claims made on both sides during the referendum campaign. That’s a political battle for you. Politicians and campaigners make their case using every weapon at their disposal, and the people decide where they believe the truth lies.
Now Judge Coleman has ruled that it is in the ‘public interest’ for the truth of Boris’s slogan to be decided ‘in open court’. What really serves the public interest is for political arguments to be judged by the public in open political debate.
Get your beak out of our democracy, m’lud.
6 Should Tony Blair be jailed fore his ‘dodgy dossier’ in the Iraqi War rowCredit: Reuters
The case against Boris is unlikely to get far. But if it did establish a precedent, other politicians could surely face accusations of ‘misconduct in public office’ for making dubious claims and promises.
We could have witnessed…
The Dodgy Dossier
New Labour prime minister Tony ‘I’m a pretty straight guy’ Blair prosecuted for their 2003 ‘dodgy dossier’, which claimed that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime had weapons of mass destruction that could be unleashed on the West in 45 minutes. That disinformation was used to justify a terrible and unpopular war. The public made their own judgement, and Blair’s reputation never recovered.
More social housing? Pull the other one…
Blair further charged along with Gordon Brown for failing to increase social house building by 50 per cent and giving us a referendum on EU integration. Neither came to fruition
Clegg’s pledge to scrap tuition fees
Former leader Nick Clegg prosecuted for spectacularly failing to fulfil the Liberal Democrats’ 2010 election manifesto. They won youth votes by pledging to oppose any increase in students’ tuition fees and ultimately to scrap them. As soon as he formed the Coalition government with David Cameron’s Tories, Clegg reneged and fees shot up to £9,000 a year. Angry voters – including students – gave their verdict on the Lib Dems at the next election
Tory PM David Cameron, his Treasurer George Osborne and every other leader of the ‘Project Fear’ campaign being prosecuted for the forecasts of doom they issued before the 2016 EU referendum. They told us voting Leave would lead to mass unemployment, public spending cuts, a possible Third World War and worse, falling house prices! And they used £9m of public money to send a Project Fear propaganda pamphlet to every UK household. (Misuse of public office, anybody?)But voters saw through their prophecies and backed Leave anyway, in the largest vote in British history. Cameron again boasted he would balance the books and cut net immigration to below 100,000 a year. He did neither. Lock him up!
Chamberlain’s peace claims
Nor would Cameron’s illustrious forebears in No10 escape a trip to the cells. We could have seen Tory Neville Chamberlain being flogged for waving around his piece of paper with its phoney claim of ‘Peace in our time’ a year before Europe was plunged into World War 2.
6 Neville Chamberlain’s Peace in our Time speech was phoneyCredit: Hulton Archive – Getty
6 Harold Wilson gave false promises ahead of the Common Market referendum in 1975Credit: Getty – Contributor
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The common market
Labour premier Harold Wilson sent to court for his false promise that he won big concessions from Europe before the 1975 referendum on joining the common market.
Mr Europe’s sovereignty claims…
Ted Heath, or ‘Mr Europe’, banged up for lying to the electorate when he boldly proclaimed there would be no loss of sovereignty if we join the common market. Heath gave a stirring speech telling us not to ‘turn our backs’ on mainland Europe, and received a prize of £75,000 – £1.5million in today’s money – for his work on European unification.
Anthony Eden, the peacemaker
Anthony Eden jailed for claiming he was wading into the Suez Canal row in 1956 to act as peacemakers between Israel and Egypt, when really he was trying to revive the British Empire.