The Good Law Project’s email to its supporters was unequivocal. “Breaking: We Won,” he exclaimed. Moments later, the organization’s director, attorney Jolyon Maugham, took to Twitter. ‘BREAKING: Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former Health Minister Matt Hancock broke the law because they failed to think of disabled communities and ethnic minorities when appointing Dido Harding and Mike Coupe,’ he revealed happily.
Yet as Maugham enjoyed his moment of glory and his army of progressive supporters poured onto social media in celebration, it began to appear there was just one small problem. What the Good Law Project said was not true.
As Maugham enjoyed his moment of glory and his army of progressive supporters poured onto social media in celebration, it began to appear there was just one small problem. What the Good Law Project said was not true
The judgment in a case brought against the appointment of Harding as president and Coupe as director of the Covid Test and Trace Task Force did not mince words. “The claim brought by the Good Law Project fails in its entirety,” said Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Swift. They found that part of a claim filed by the Runnymede Trust was only successful on the basis that appointments implemented at the height of the coronavirus crisis “were made without compliance with the duty to equality in the public sector”.
But the most explosive argument – that Harding and Coupe were selected because ministers only considered “candidates with relevant personal or political connections” – was dismissed unequivocally.
“He fails on his facts,” Singh and Swift said, while adding pointedly: “Mr Maugham claims that Mr Coupe is a ‘friend’ of Baroness Harding but provides no further details.”
The judges also addressed the allegation that Boris Johnson was guilty of breaking the law. “No remedy should be granted against the first respondent, the Prime Minister, as it is clear from the facts found by this Court that he played no role in either appointment,” they said.
Jolyon Maugham is best known for his bold announcement on Boxing Day 2019 that he had just bludgeoned a fox to death with a baseball bat while dressed in a satin kimono. But it’s time to address how he is waging a similar assault on the British government, the British legal system and British democracy.
In Maugham’s eyes — and those of his devoted followers — he’s a crusader caped vigilante. “I really, really don’t like acts of state dishonesty,” he says. “I don’t like the government misleading the public.” But, as we saw last week, this passion for honesty and transparency in the public sphere does not extend to statements about cases brought by his own organization.
And there are many cases. Reverse Brexit. Promote trans rights. The right of schools to enforce face masks. Party door. Net Zero. Gale compensation. The Good Law Project has engaged in litigation over them.
“Good Law Project is a nonprofit campaign organization that uses the law to protect the interests of the public,” is the ominous claim on the organization’s website. But this is not the case. What Good Law is really doing is engaging in guerrilla warfare through the courts to destabilize the elected government of the day and promote its own partial liberal agenda.
Justice is supposed to be blind. But all Good Law cases come from a narrow part of the political spectrum. And are pursued for a single and transparent political purpose
To be fair, their MO is brilliantly simple. They pick a high-profile issue. They announce that they are going to mount a legal challenge on this subject and launch a call for funds to finance their action. Their middle class supporters are dipping into their pockets and Good Law is duly going to court, where they are filing a number of claims, some on major points of law and governance, others representing legal technicalities. They then lose most of the time, at which point, as we saw in this case, they still claim victory. Or they sometimes win – almost always on a relatively minor technicality – and claim an even greater triumph. Then they leave.
Maugham has long argued that Good Law performs a necessary, even vital, function of keeping Britain’s political class honest on behalf of the people. And for a while vanity held. But now the curtain is finally drawn.
Justice is supposed to be blind. But all Good Law cases come from a narrow part of the political spectrum. And are pursued for a single and transparent political purpose. “We literally have years of tory sleaze litigation in court. This question is going to sink the Tories – and it is needed,” Maugham said a few months ago.
This attempt to remove the ballot box from the voting booth and place it in the High Court dock would be bad enough at the best of times. But according to the latest NAO report, there is a post-Covid lockdown of 61,000 Crown court cases, including rape and other aggravated sexual assaults, and more than 360,000 court cases of instance. Although Maugham’s actions play out in civil courts, Good Law’s contentious gluttony is still farcical indulgence in this context.
And justice seems to notice it. In last week’s judgment, Justices Singh and Swift said: “It cannot be assumed that the Good Law Project now has carte blanche to bring an action for judicial review, whatever the issues and whatever the circumstances. .” Which is problematic for Jolyon Maugham and his allies, given that this is precisely the base they have been operating on for the past five years.
The Good Law Project’s email to its supporters was unequivocal. “Breaking: We Won,” he exclaimed
But the biggest problem with the Good Law Project isn’t actually how they are hijacking the UK justice system as part of their campaign against Boris and his government. This is how they use the law to twist the truth. For the past two years, their campaign has had one main focus. Proving that the awarding of PPE and other Covid contracts was the result of a politically corrupt relationship between senior ministers and suppliers.
“I’m only half kidding when I say if you’re a friend of Matt Hancock and you don’t have a huge contract worth tens of millions, you have to look in the mirror,” Maugham said on last year. .
But this is not true. And we know that’s not true because it’s been proven time and time again in court that it’s not true. For all the lucrative crowdsourcing and self-righteous hyperbole and increasingly explosive claims of judicial vindication, not a single case has resulted in a finding of deliberate ministerial bias in the awarding of Covid contracts. “Money for their homies,” Good Law said, after filing a lawsuit against a company linked to Dom Cummings. But the judge ruled that there was no bias in awarding the contract. And the whole case was dismissed on appeal.
“The High Court has ruled that the government’s operation of a fast-track VIP lane for awarding lucrative PPE contracts to those with political connections was unlawful,” Good Law boasted last month. Conveniently ignoring the fact that the judge had specifically ruled that the companies involved were qualified to supply PPE, the contracts would almost certainly have been awarded anyway, and an NAO report had already concluded that ministers had no role in their delivery.
“It’s time to end the cronyism,” Good Law said as they launched their case against Dido Harding’s nomination. “The lawsuit filed by the Good Law Project fails in its entirety” was the response from the court system.
But the Good Law Project probably doesn’t care. That’s because for all their liberal moralizing, there’s something quite Trumpian about their strategy. Make the outrageous claim. Stir your base. Collect the rewards. Pass.
Last Wednesday, after even his own supporters began to question his hubris, Jolyon Maugham reluctantly offered a mea culpa. “I don’t mind being held to a high standard – or even a higher standard. I expect to be,” he said.
But he doesn’t. He expects people to read Good Law’s press releases and ignore the actual judgments. To devour his tropes about cronies and tory sleaze and give the evidence a swerve. Above all, he expects his followers to embrace his man-of-the-people affectation. And not to stop to wonder if the people would be better served if their legal system eliminated real crime and corruption, rather than providing a backdrop for the ego of another liberal silk.