For the last few weeks, it had seemed as though Brexit had ground to a halt, much like a freight train crashing through its sidings and slowly digging into the ground behind it until it came to rest.
Or, if you’re picturing sidings at a major railway station, crashing into the nearest Costa coffee and smashing headfirst into the espresso machine.
Now, however, the situation seems to be gathering momentum again.
Since Theresa May stepped down a week ago, her name has barely been mentioned. All the discussion has been focussed on what comes next: Who will be the next PM? Will Labour ever come up with a proper strategy for Brexit? Is Nigel Farage the saviour of British politics?
Well, next week Between the Lines will begin to dissect the candidates for the Tory party leadership one at a time. We’ll start to address the future then.
For now though, we’ll wrap up the past week through an analysis of a fairly major turn of events.
It involves one of the aforementioned Tory party candidates. The frontrunner, no less.
It’s been a bad couple of days for Boris.
So BoJo Is A Criminal Now?
Unless you ask his ex-wife. ZING.
It’s really, really important to write about this in a way that is impartial. Not just because we here at BTL don’t particularly fancy a lawsuit (SPONSOR US HERE IF YOU WANT TO FUND OUR LEGAL FEES), but because this whole story has the potential to disrupt both the Remain and Leave camps in equal measure.
Here are the facts.
- During the referendum campaign, Boris Johnson, former London Mayor and Foreign Secretary, claimed that when we left the EU we would receive an extra £350m a week to go to the NHS.
- At a glance, this claim is dubious, but not demonstrably false. It ended up becoming a major statistic for the Vote Leave campaign.
- It has since become a beacon of fury for Remain-supporters, who claim that the statement is, at its core, unprovable propaganda. Up until now, the claim was nothing more than an alleged lie.
- Now, however, a man named Marcus Ball has accused Johnson of ‘misconduct in a public office,’ claiming that he used his position as a prominent political figure to wilfully mislead the public through his ‘£350m-a-week’ claim. Essentially, Ball has taken Johnson to court over an accusation of lying – and if found guilty, Johnson could actually face life imprisonment.
- A judge on the private prosecution circuit has ruled that there is enough of a case for Johnson to have to appear before the court. BoJo is going to have to prove his innocence in the middle of a run to become leader of the Tory Party and, by extension, Prime Minister.
Just because I can, I will say this: yet again, the Balls think they’re bigger than the Johnsons.
Thank you, thank you. Yes, I am proud of that joke, shut up.
But… It Was A Lie, Right? That Means Boris Is Going To Jail…?
This is politics. Nothing is ever as simple as that.
Firstly, there’s not currently any legal argument to prove that it was a lie, let alone one used for nefarious means. Also, this legal case is going to run into obstruction after obstruction, where lawyers for the defence (Boris) will claim, as they have already, that the whole thing was a stunt. In a case such as this, it is incredibly hard to prove proactive wrongdoing.
Basically: Did Boris wilfully mislead the public? If so, how do you prove it?
To jump on this legal case, as many Remainers already have, as proof of the Leave campaign’s wrongdoing is to jump the gun before it’s even been loaded. There is a remarkable amount of scope here for conjecture, but the brilliant thing about the British legal system is presumption of innocence – no-one can be charged for anything without ‘reasonable doubt’ being eliminated.
So, until proven guilty, Boris is innocent.
There’s something about recent coverage of the Leave campaign, as well as some movement from their own camp, that doesn’t quite sit right.
First of all, this charge against Boris has been long in the making (Ball has taken three years to build the case), and yet the rhetoric hasn’t changed. Day in, day out, the message from Leave HQ has been about how feeble and pathetic the Remain camp is. The legal case is, without a doubt, a real challenge to that cocksure attitude, and if it wasn’t a real threat, it would have been laughed out of hand immediately.
Aaron Banks, Andy Wigmore, Nigel Farage… any prominent Leave.EU members or founders could have shrugged it off.
Instead, there has been next to no coverage of it.
What we have had instead is some pretty tetchy media outbursts – the most notable being Andy Wigmore’s suggestion that Femi Oluwole, a prominent Remain campaigner, both sounds and looks like Dianne Abbott.
Except, in Wigmore’s own words, that Femi, “has much more of [sic] glowing complexion.”
I'll just leave this here shall I… pic.twitter.com/tZcS6ALmlK
— Femi (@Femi_Sorry) May 30, 2019
Which, we would argue, is nothing short of being outright racist.
There’s something to this case against BoJo that has Leave HQ worried. Quite what that is, we’ll have to wait and see. Maybe Boris will be sentenced to life imprisonment, who knows.
But Remainers are likely to jump the gun on all of this and declare a moral victory before the legal process has even begun, which would be counter-intuitive and incredibly damaging. In this day and age, there are scant few systems left in place in which the public have faith.
Let the legal system be one of them, whatever the outcome. Innocent until proven guilty.
If guilty, however… Holy shit.
I Thought This Was Meant To Be A Weekly Wrap-Up?
What a time to be alive. We’ve forgotten all about those stories less than a week after they broke.
Tune in next Friday for updates on our new Empress, Ivanka Trump. With ‘The Donald’ coming over next week, can we really rule that out anymore?
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