In praise of Marcus Ball – doughty fighter against the £350 million red bus lie

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Marcus Ball has announced that he can no longer move forward with his legal fight to hold Boris Johnson responsible for his “£350 million a week” red bus statement.

High court judges threw the case out in June after Johnson challenged a summons to attend court on three claims of misconduct in public office. However, Marcus Ball had continued fighting in the hope of taking the case to the Supreme Court.

Last weekend, news came from the legal fraternity that this would not be possible.

This young man has put up an extraordinary fight over the last three and a half years, working at below the national minimum wage per hour.

Goodness knows, there are many roads to riches in the legal profession.

But Marcus Ball took the road of integrity and selflessness, and devoted his life for 3.5 years – one might say he put his life on the line – to fight for truthfulness.

What has been particularly noticeable is that Marcus’s fight has not been political. He has specifically been fighting against public servants telling untruths in public office. It just so happened that the £350 million claim provided the clearest case to pursue. You can read Marcus Ball explaining the rationale behind his campaign here on his blog.

I have myself contributed to Marcus’s campaign. I am delighted by every penny I gave him through crowd funding. I do not begrudge a single penny I gave his campaign.

He now faces bankruptcy.

Well, he deserves a great future in the legal profession, if you ask me.

It is extremely unusual to come across such selfless motives, gritty determination and passion for the truth.

This country needs more Marcus Balls!

I salute him!

I believe we all should.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • It sounds like he needs some further funds to avoid bankruptcy. We all need to pile in and help him

  • Richard Underhill. 9th Oct '19 - 10:54am

    Boris Johnson is now First Lord of the Treasury.
    He has reshuffled the cabinet, dropped the previous Chancellor, Philip Hammond, and appointed a different person as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
    Boris Johnson has said that he wants a general election and has repeatedly said that being a member of the European Union is costing the United Kingdom one billion pounds a month.
    Boris Johnson is definitely in public office at the moment, so is this amount accurate?
    Is it gross or net?
    Has he been challenged on the accuracy of this figure?
    Has the Chancellor and Under-Treasurer of Her Majesty’s Exchequer confirmed the figure in Parliament?

  • Andrew Tampion 9th Oct '19 - 5:01pm

    I don’t think you have thought this through to it’s logical conclusion Paul. Suppose that a court ruled that Boris Johnson had been acting as a public office: what would have stopped someone from prosecuting all the Lib Dem MPs who pledged not to increase tuition fees in 2010 then voted to increase tuitions while members of the coalition government?

  • Andrew Tampion 9th Oct '19 - 11:04pm

    1 Whenever someone I am debating resorts to “it isn’t technicaly a lie” (or whatever) then it generally because they have run out of good arguements.
    2 Saying lets spend the money we spend currently send to the EU on the NHS even if it is less than the amount claimed (but still hundreds of millions of pounds per week) that seems to me to be an aspiration so the same logic should apply to both.
    3 Once you start pushing at the boundaries of a law then what is to stop someone else pushing it a bit further, maybe to somewhere you would rather it didn’t go?
    4 Do you not accept that there is a difference between a situation that changes because of something outside the pledgers control and situation that changes because the pledger adopts a diametrically opposite position and votes for something they said they would vote against.

  • I think Andrew has flagged the underlying weakness of this case from day 1 – the difficulty/near-impossibility of proving intent of public misconduct.

    Now we all know Boris intended to lie/didn’t care about the truth. But I have some concerns about how this case was crowdfunded from day 1.

    By way of analogy, when a company issues stock, it is required by law to publish a prospectus that lists out all material information, which includes the risks and weaknesses of the underlying company.

    Were those who funded the case made aware of this inherent weakness in the case’s legal merits (notwithstanding the moral ones)? If not, why not? If I had invested in this, I would be asking some serious questions.

  • Alex Macfie 10th Oct '19 - 9:47am

    Andrew Tampion: The case against Johnson was not over the “pledge” or “aspiration” to spend the money we spend currently send to the EU on the NHS, it was on the factual matter of the amount he and Vote Leave were claiming the UK sends to the EU. And as a point of fact, it is not £350M, but quite a lot less than that.

    That manifesto pledges are not legally binding is already established in law, following a case brought 11 years ago, ironically also about the EU.

  • I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but you need to publish some corrections to your article, in the light of the fact the rulings by the High Court about whether it was politically motivated, and whether it was a reasonable prosecution conducted with integrity.

    Paragraph 44 of the final high court judgement dated 3/7/19: “the political motive for the prosecution is apparent from evidence as far back as July 2016 and up to the institution of the prosecution in February 2019”

    Paragraph 7 of the costs order dated 20/9/19: “The prosecution was commenced in breach of the IP’s [Marcus Ball’s] duty of candour”

    Paragraph 10 of the costs order dated 20/9/19: “We accept the submission made on behalf of C [Boris Johnson] that the bringing of this prosecution was unreasonable to a high degree”

  • Peter Martin 10th Oct '19 - 12:44pm

    IF the LibDems had put just a fraction of the same campaigning energy into opposing the ultra neoliberalism of the EU as they’ve recent put into campaigning against Brexit then the EU would be a much less dysfunctional organisation and would be much more popular than it is.

    Many of us have been critical of just how the European centre-left generally has failed to properly stand up to the ultra neoliberalism of the EU and has lost its working class support base as a consequence. Could the British Labour Party be going the same way?

  • Richard Underhill. 10th Oct '19 - 1:12pm

    9th Oct ’19 – 10:54am
    Chris Patten (former MP for Bath, former Governor of Hong Kong, former EU Commissioner) has written about the EU’s aid budget.
    I put the point to Vince Cable MP at a meeting in Eastbourne.
    He replied ” a small amount of money, for democracy”.

  • Andrew Tampion 10th Oct '19 - 10:26pm

    Alex Macfie. You and others choose to make the “case” against Johnson about the fact that the figure of £350 million per week was based on the total contribution due and did not allow for the UK rebate or money received back from the EU.
    I have not been able to find a figure for the UK’s net contribution in 2016. But on the ONS website it says that (according to EU not UK figures) the average nett UK contribution for the 5 years 2014 – 18 was £7.8 billion which is £150 million per week. Under half the £350 million claimed. I suggest to you that if Johnson and Vote Leave went back to the people and said we got it wrong it’s only £150 million not £350 million extra to spend on the NHS many people, perhaps a majority would say thats still a good deal we’ll take it.
    As far as the Stuart Wheeler case you refer to is concerned that was a Judicial Review and not a criminal action for Misconduct in Public Office. Therefore it is not a precedent for saying that, if the Courts had accepted Marcus Ball’s arguement, MPs who voted for a policy they had public pledged prior to election to oppose are could not be charged with misconduct in public office

  • As far as court action is concerned the scandal is that it costs so much money that the majority of the population are excluded. This is something we can campaign against. I think the idea that the state is run for the rich is sometimes called neoliberalism. It is the fight against that by the EU as in control of moving money to where it will attract the lowest taxes that has lead to a campaign to get out of the EU. Our fight to stay in the EU will be helped by explaining how our membership has curbed some of the excesses of this neoliberal “take from the poor to give to the rich” culture in our country. The future for most in a society modelled on Singapore is grim.

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