DOMINIC LAWSON: Battered Boris Johnson must relish the humbling of those desperate Brexit-wreckers Gina Miller and John Bercow
As the Prime Minister contemplates his undoing, the result of partying in Downing Street while the rest of the nation locked down in accordance with his own anti-socialising edicts, it might accord Boris Johnson bleak satisfaction to see that two of his most persistent adversaries are also facing public humiliation.
I speak of Gina Miller and John Bercow.
Ms Miller is the multi-millionaire financier who used the courts to challenge the PM’s attempt to expedite Brexit by proroguing Parliament in the autumn of 2019.
Last week Gina Miller, pictured, declared the creation of a new political party (hers) called True and Fair
Although the High Court had ruled that he was entitled to do this, lawyers for Miller — who made no secret of the fact that she wanted the result of the 2016 referendum to be overturned — persuaded the Supreme Court, led by Baroness Hale, to declare Johnson’s manoeuvre illegal.
As we now know, Johnson eventually managed to engineer the general election result required to ‘get Brexit done’ — and honour the pledge by his predecessor, David Cameron, that the politicians would accept the verdict of the people in the referendum.
One would have thought this would be the last we would hear from Gina Miller, at least on the subject of democracy. But no.
Last week, she declared the creation of a new political party (hers) called True and Fair. To say its launch in a Westminster conference centre was a farce would be to understate the embarrassment.
It was attended by just 13 people, which seems to have consisted of five reporters and Miller’s own staff.
As one of those reporters, Will Lloyd of the UnHerd website, wrote: ‘Dutifully, I began eating one of the 50 croissants laid out for journalists. Someone had to.’
Ms Miller, described by Lloyd as ‘a Brexit leftover, surrounded by uneaten croissants’, then stood up to declare that her new party would bring ‘long overdue changes to British politics’.
By the accounts of the few reporters who turned up, the launch speech was devoid of any policies which would actually change anything, and the rhetoric as empty and tired as that inflicted on us by any of the established parties.
Thus, Ms Miller intoned that we must have ‘a government that works for everyone’. Yawn.
After this debacle, True and Fair issued a statement claiming that ‘hundreds of people were bitterly disappointed not to be able to attend in person’. I bet they weren’t.
And who should pop up next? None other than her fellow combatant against ‘Brexit Boris’ during the last Parliament, the irascible former Speaker, John Bercow.
Yesterday, he gave a lengthy interview to the Sunday Times to challenge, pre-emptively, the findings of an investigation by Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
John Bercow, pictured, in an interview complained that ‘this process has been made up as they go along’
Although she has not yet released her decision on the multiple cases of bullying of staff of which Bercow has been accused, it seems she has upheld no fewer than 21 counts out of a total of 35 complaints by the former clerk of the Commons and two former private secretaries.
Bercow complains bitterly, saying that ‘this process has been made up as they go along’.
This is quite funny, as Bercow himself became notorious for the way he made up the rules as he went along, almost invariably in favour of those attempting to ‘stop Brexit’.
Yesterday Bercow gave a lengthy interview to the Sunday Times to challenge, pre-emptively, the findings of an investigation by Kathryn Stone (pictured)
As even one who didn’t agree with the verdict of the people in 2016, the Guardian’s Anne Perkins, wrote at the time, Bercow had ‘ignored the considered advice of the official guardians of the rules of parliamentary procedure…the Speaker takes a grave risk when he appears to ignore the rules’.
Especially so when, also disregarding the almost sacred duty of that role to appear impartial, he was content to be driven in a family car festooned with a ‘B******* to Brexit’ sticker.
Anyway, it is not that, but the multiple charges of bullying which thwarts his deepest wish — to remain a parliamentarian through the peerage that would normally come to a Speaker upon retirement.
So instead, among less illustrious sinecures, Bercow has been charging £82.50 a pop for thousands of so-called ‘celebrity videos’, in which he records, upon request, personal messages to people for their birthday, or some other occasion. I imagine his screech, ‘Order, order’ is most in demand.
Whatever post-public-office humiliation lies in wait for Boris Johnson, it can surely not be as grim as that.
A charter for pious vandals
‘God made me do it’ is not usually a credible defence in a criminal trial. But it did the trick for Father Martin Newell, last week acquitted by a jury at Inner London Crown Court of ‘obstructing an engine’.
After two of his colleagues (also acquitted) from Christian Climate Action had used a ladder to clamber on to the roof of a rush-hour DLR train about to leave Shadwell station in October 2019, Newell glued himself to the side of it.
The commuters inside reacted angrily, as one might expect. One of them told the allegedly divinely inspired demonstrators: ‘This is a f****** electric train.’
Father Martin Newell pictured with Reverend Sue Parfitt outside Inner London Crown Court. They, with another colleague, were last week acquitted by a jury of ‘obstructing an engine’
But Newell informed them, and the court: ‘Jesus taught us to love your neighbour, and Pope Francis said the Earth is our neighbour.’
Remarkably, the jury bought that line. Or perhaps not so remarkably, as it follows a pattern of similar acquittals, even when the judge had advised jurors that there was no defence in law.
This was what happened last April, when six Extinction Rebellion protesters were cleared of causing criminal damage after they smashed windows at Shell’s London headquarters.
Their argument, which the jury effectively endorsed, was that because Shell is an oil company, it was contributing to ‘causing serious injury and death’.
I’m surprised they didn’t claim that employees in the building were accessories to murder, and having their windows smashed constituted merciful ‘climate justice’.
More recently, there was the acquittal by a jury of a group who had helped dump in Bristol harbour the statue of Edward Colston (1636-1721), a philanthropic slave-trader.
The jury system is an essential ancient defence of our liberties, but sometimes jurors can be accused of taking a liberty with their decisions — to the detriment of law-abiding citizens (such as those DLR commuters).
I doubt Father Martin Newell will ever repent of his actions. But it can happen.
In 2000, the author Mark Lynas (pictured) was one of 28 Greenpeace members sensationally acquitted by a jury after they had been charged with criminal damage
In 2000, the author Mark Lynas was one of 28 Greenpeace members sensationally acquitted by a jury after they had been charged with criminal damage.
Led by the then executive director of Greenpeace, Lord Melchett, they had destroyed a crop of genetically modified (GM) maize in Norfolk.
But 13 years later, Lynas told the Oxford Farming Conference (at which the virulently anti-GM Prince Charles was also speaking): ‘I apologise to you for having spent several years ripping up GM crops.
‘I am also sorry that I helped to demonise an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.’
I wonder what the jurors in that case thought, if they read his confession.