‘Whatever your take on Brexit, we must not try to close down debate‘: Tory leadership rival Michael Gove leaps to Boris Johnson‘s defence as ex-Foreign Secretary is told he faces CRIMINAL trial over his claim Britain sends EU £350m every week

Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson, pictured today, will be hauled to court over claims he misled the public before the EU Referendum

 was joined by rivals for the Tory leadership crown as he hit back after a judge took the ‘extraordinary‘ decision to haul him to court over a Remainer claim that he lied when he said Britain gave the £350million a week.

The front runner to replace  as Tory leader could become the first serving Prime Minister in the modern era to appear in the dock when he appears to answer accusations of misconduct in a public office. 

Michael Gove was among the colleagues who came to Mr Johnson‘s defence, saying the move was an attempt to ‘criminalise free speech‘.

And a source close to Mr Johnson said the prosecution was ‘nothing less than a politically motivated attempt to reverse and crush the will of the people‘.

‘The claimant has openly admitted that his plan is to overturn the referendum via a legal challenge and he clearly intends to try and undermine the one man who can truly deliver Brexit.

‘The decision to issue a summons is extraordinary, and flies in the face of hundreds of years of British democratic tradition.‘  

Mr Johnson‘s representatives have called the case a ‘stunt‘ brought forward for ‘political purposes‘ while former Tory cabinet minister David Mellor called District Judge Margot Coleman‘s ruling ‘nutty‘ and Jacob-Rees Mogg, who is supporting Mr Johnson‘s leadership campaign, added it was ‘an attack on free speech‘. 

Mr Johnson made the comments in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum and before the 2017 General Election, claiming the UK should give the cash to the NHS instead. 

He could now face a crown court trial and if found guilty might be jailed for more than six months, with the maximum sentence life imprisonment.

It also raises the possibility he could be forced to appear in court while trying to negotiate Brexit with the EU, with a new Tory leader due to be appointed before the end of July.

Lawyers representing entrepreneur and anti-Brexit campaigner Marcus Ball, 29, have brought three charges of misconduct in a public office against Mr Johnson alleging he made statements to the public he ‘knew to be false‘.

Two relate to when he served as both an MP and Mayor of London before the 2016 referendum and the other in his role as MP in the run-up to the 2017 General Election. 

Mr Johnson was supported by his leadership rival Michael Gove this afternoon.  

He said: ‘Whatever view you take on Brexit, we must not try to close down debate. Contending opinions and vigorous argument are the essence of democracy. 

‘We should trust the public to decide on the merits of a political case. We should not try to criminalise free speech.‘

Mr Johnson‘s leadership rival Dominic Raab tonight added his voice to those criticising the decision.

He told ITV News: ‘I do worry a little bit about the timing of this as a private prosecution and the sense that the cut and thrust of democratic debate ought to be decided by your viewers rather than in court.

‘And I think in order to preserve free speech and democratic debate that‘s something we should all look very carefully (at) and consider.‘ 

Who is District Judge Margot Coleman and what are her previous cases?

District Judge Margot Coleman is more used to dealing with small-time criminals and foreign nationals fighting extradition to be tried for crimes abroad.

The 64-year old from Edgeware, north London, became a qualified solicitor in 1978 and went on to set up her own law firm, Coleman Solicitors, which became Victor Lissack Roscoe & Coleman in 2003. 

She was appointed a deputy district judge in 2000 and five years later in February 2005  became a district judge, which currently comes with a £110,335 salary.

In this role she joined her husband, Jeremy Coleman, who served as a district judge for 21 years before retiring in 2016. 

District judges – previously known as Stipendiary Magistrates – sit in magistrates courts. 

They preside over low level crime cases where the maximum penalties are fines or short prison sentences.  

They also oversee initial hearings in high-level crime cases, before handing them on to more senior Crown Courts, which have the power to hand down heavier sentences.

In one case she gave a suspended sentence to a 23-year-old trainee doctor who lost his temper with police when they pulled him while driving, saying she felt sympathy for him. 

Ramtin Oraki‘s mother had allowed him to drive the car in 2016 as she had been suffering from a bad back.

Judge Coleman sentenced them both to conditional discharges of two years .

 Other high profile cases include that of alleged paedophile Roger Giese, who in 2015 Judge Coleman refused to extradite.

He had been on the run from the FBI since 2007 and Judge Coleman refused to start the extradition process until assurance were received that his human rights would not be breached.

In 2018 he was extradited to the US, where he was wanted for trial in California – charged with sexually abusing a boy aged under 14.

Brexiteer Mr Rees-Mogg, who is supporting Mr Johnson‘s leadership campaign, blasted the decision to prosecute him.

The European Research Group chairman said: ‘It is an attack on free speech and the courts are ill advised to be used as the tools of political activists.‘

He added: ‘It is trying to use the courts to achieve a political end which, I think, is neither right or proper.

‘This is involving the courts in something that is not their area.

‘We need courts and politicians to respect each other, and it is an abuse of process, and a troubling one.

‘It has been brought by people who are resentful of the referendum result.‘

Leadership candidate Matt Hancock said: ‘However people voted in the Referendum, we shouldn‘t have courts judging on political debates. Let‘s have robust debate to test arguments – and keep courts out of politics.‘  

Tory Brexiteer David TC Davies said it was ‘deeply sinister‘ that Brexiteers were being dragged to court, adding: ‘EU supporters falsely claimed that a Leave vote would collapse the economy. No action (is) being taken against them.‘ 

Today‘s decision was welcomed by Remainer Lib Dem MP Ed Davey, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign.

He said: ‘Given Boris Johnson wants to be the next Prime Minister of this country, it‘s only right that he is held accountable for the lies he told in 2016.

‘Boris Johnson has never had to rely on these vital public services. That‘s why he doesn‘t care about the impact of his campaign slogans.

‘Three years down the road and our NHS is on its knees. EU staff are leaving in their droves, having been made to feel unwelcome, while local hospitals around the country have warned that they won‘t be able to deliver critical services in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

‘We cannot let our communities down like this. Boris Johnson facing court is a sideshow – we need a final say vote on Brexit so that we can prevent the catastrophe he started.‘ 

But Mr Mellor added: ‘This decision by a district judge right at the bottom of the judicial food chain is a deplorable absurdity.

‘You really cannot have the courts adjudicating on what politicians (do) during election campaigns. There madness lies.

‘I imagine there will be no shortage of senior judges who will feel acutely embarrassed about this. Politicians at election times exaggerate, and say things that may or may not be true, and it‘s the electorate, not the courts, who should decide whether they are reliable or not.‘    

Mr Ball launched a ‘Brexit Justice‘ campaign in 2016 after accusing Mr Johnson of ‘abusing public trust‘ over the comments.  He then raised the cash for the private prosecution – which he claims is a ‘world first‘ – by crowdfunding £370,000 through various websites from more than 6,000 donors. 

Initially Brexit Justice wanted to bring action against six ‘remain and leave campaigners‘ but after reviewing evidence the campaign decided Mr Johnson was the only person who could be prosecuted. The others have not been identified. 

No date has been set for the next court appearance but, with a new Tory leader due to be in place by the end of July, it means Mr Johnson could face trial while Prime Minister. 

The die-hard Remainer who films Instagram videos in his bedroom and crowd-funded over £200,000 to spend three years targeting Boris Johnson, boasting: ‘This case is a world first‘

The man targeting Boris Johnson is a die-hard Remainer who has spent the three years since the Brexit referendum working on his case against the Leave figurehead.

Marcus Ball, 29, has relied on crowdfunded donations of more than £200,000 to employ a team of lawyers to fight on his behalf – boasting that the case was a ‘world first‘. 

The start-up company entrepreneur from Norfolk, who worked developing mobile app including a political Tamagotchi, founded Brexit Justice in June 2016.

He has also previously worked as a speaker and writer as well as campaigning to reform higher education in the UK. 

He is a well-known Instagrammer who often films himself discussing the case in the bedroom of his west London flat, which has signs on the wall including: ‘When politicians lie, democracy dies‘ and ‘Brexit justice‘. 

Describing his motivations he said: ‘I was just like, ‘F*** this. This has to stop‘,‘ Ball says. ‘This is a primitive problem, which has been around for thousands of years. It‘s not impossible to stop it.‘ 

It followed the 2016 referendum campaign in which Mr Ball says Mr Johnson abused the public‘s trust.

He has since been building a case against Mr Johnson for the last two years.

Initially the campaign wanted to bring prosecutions against six ‘remain and leave campaigners‘ but decided to pursue only Mr Johnson after reviewing the evidence. The others have not been identified. 

A source close to Mr Johnson accused Mr ball of being politically motivated, saying: ‘He has written internet blogs, which have since been removed, disclosing his intention to stop Brexit and reverse the referendum via a court case. 

‘He is deeply dishonest about his intention – which is to frustrate the largest ever popular vote in British history.‘

Mr Ball has so far raised £234,345 of the £500,000 target through Crowdfunder and has raised the rest of the £370,000 through other donation sites.

More than 6,000 people have supported the cause through donations. 

The page was set up in order to pay the lawyers who are representing Brexit Justice.

The costs are published on the Brexit Justice website, which show legal fees and well as expenses. 

Mr Johnson is expected to make his first appearance at Westminster Magistrates‘ Court in three-to-four weeks, and will have to attend to indicate whether he contests the charges.

If he does and it is sent to trial, it would likely not take place for another six months. 

With months often separating a first court appearance and a subsequent trial it is quite possible that the full hearing with a jury would not be ready to start until after the new leader is in place.  

Mr Johnson has long been the favourite to succeed Mrs May, who announced she would step down last week after her Brexit failures.

But he is facing stiff competition from other leading figures including Michael Gove, whose odds have shortened dramatically since he announced he was running.

The leadership race sees a wide field of candidates whittled down to just two candidates in voting by MPs. These two finalists then go head-to-head in a vote by thousands of party members. 

Some MPs have welcomed today‘s decision claiming Mr Johnson should be ‘held accountable‘ over his statements while others said it was a ‘nutty‘ ruling and a ‘bad day for British justice‘. 

The judgment said: ‘The allegations which have been made are unproven accusations and I do not make any findings of fact.

‘Having considered all the relevant factors I am satisfied that this is a proper case to issue the summons as requested for the three offences as drafted. The charges are indictable only.

‘This means the proposed defendant will be required to attend this court for a preliminary hearing, and the case will then be sent to the Crown Court for trial. 

‘The charges can only be dealt with in the Crown Court.‘

Neither party attended Westminster Magistrates‘ Court today and the judge‘s 13 page ruling was handed down to members of the press. 

Mr Johnson‘s position was outlined in the ruling, describing the application as a ‘(political) stunt‘.

His position in summary said: ‘This application is brought for political purposes. The position presented to the Court is that this is a disinterested attempt to improve the standards of political debate.

‘The reality of this enterprise is different. The ‘Prosecutor‘ (a limited company) is ‘Brexit Justice Limited‘. Brexit Justice Limited is the product of a campaign to undermine the result of the Brexit referendum, and/or to prevent its consequences.

‘The company and this application owe their existence to the desire on the part of individuals such as Mr Ball to undermine the referendum result. The ‘Brexit justice‘ which is ultimately sought is no Brexit.‘  

In her ruling Judge Coleman summarised the case against Mr Johnson: ‘The proposed defendant was a holder of two public offices.

‘He was a Member of Parliament and also the Mayor of London. The prosecution focuses on two timeframes.

‘The first is the period between 21 February 2016 – 23 June 2016, with the earlier date reflecting the date when Mr Johnson announced his decision to vote to leave the European Union and the later date being that of the EU referendum.

‘The second period is between 18 April 2017 – 3 May 2017 which reflects the period commencing upon the date when the 2017 general election was announced until the date when Parliament was dissolved.

‘The proposed defendant was at all material times a member of Parliament.

‘Further, during the first period, he was until 8 May 2016 the Mayor of London.

‘During both time periods outlined above, the proposed defendant repeatedly lied and misled the British public as to the cost of EU membership, expressly stating, endorsing or inferring that the cost of EU membership was £350 million per week.

‘Whilst doing so he was acting as a public officer and using the platforms and opportunities offered to him by virtue of his public office.

How the prosecution could see Prime Minister Boris in the dock 

Boris Johnson could possibly become the first serving UK prime minister to appear in court.

The decision to summons him over the £350million per week claim comes as he is the overwhelming favourite to succeed Theresa May.

She is due to step down as Tory leader on June 7, with nominations to replace her closing on June 10.

All candidates – there are currently 11 declared and more believed to be planning to – will face several rounds of voting over several weeks by Tory MPs until only two remain. 

These final two will then run-off against each other in a vote by tens of thousands of Conservative Party rank-and-file members across the country. 

The aim is to have a new leader in place ahead of Parliament‘s summer recess, which is due to start around July 26.

No dates have yet been set in Mr Johnson‘s case. 

But with often months separating a first court appearance and a subsequent trial it is quite possible that the full hearing with a jury would not be ready to start until after the new leader is in place.

Mr Johnson is immensely popular with the membership – with a third backing him in a Conservative Home poll today – but less so with MPs, meaning he faces a battle to get to the final two.

He is facing stiff competition from other leading figures including Michael Gove, whose odds have shortened dramatically since he announced he was running. 

‘Further the defendant knew that such comments were false or misleading in that he had on other occasions used accurate figures and showed a clear understanding of how to quantify UK spending in respect of the EU.

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‘Lying on a national and international platform undermines public confidence in politics, undermines the integrity of public referendums and brings both public offices held by the proposed defendant into disrepute.

‘The law dictates that misconduct to such a degree requires a criminal sanction. There is no justification or excuse for such misconduct.

‘To that end Mr Johnson was written to by the prosecution applicant on November 16, 2018, and invited him to provide an explanation and grounds for his belief in the accuracy and truth of the comments made.

‘The prosecution applicant expressly informed the proposed defendant that it could provide any such exculpatory material to the court at this stage.

‘Whilst the proposed defendant was not obliged to, he has tendered no such explanation or material.‘

The ruling also said that although there is no obligation on the court to give written reasons why an application for a summons is granted or refused, ‘this is an unusual and exceptional application with a considerable public interest and it is right that full reasons are provided to the unsuccessful party‘. 

Adrian Darbishire QC, representing Mr Johnson, said in his skeleton argument, according to the judge‘s ruling: ‘Here, the misconduct alleged concerns Mr Johnson‘s adoption and repetition of the Vote Leave campaign message concerning the £350m per week.

‘No allegation is made, nor could any be made, that Mr Johnson adopted or commended that figure for any purpose other than in the course of a contested political campaign.

‘The claim was based upon information that was, at all times, freely available to all.

‘As with very many claims made in political campaigns, it was challenged, contradicted and criticised, and many examples of this process are furnished in the material supplied by the Applicant.‘

Judge Coleman was appointed to be a district judge on February 7 2005, to be based in the Greater London commission area.

She became a solicitor in May 1978 and has practiced for Coleman Solicitors in London since 1980. 

How do private prosecutions work and when can they become criminal cases? 

The Crown Prosecution Service says that a private prosecution is started by an individual, in this case Marcus Ball, or entity (Brexit Justice), which is not acting on behalf of the police or another authority – in this case they are acting for members of the public.

The right to bring about a private prosecution is preserved by section 6 (1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act (POA), 1985.

Limitations include that the private prosecutor must seek the consent of an Attorney General before proceedings.

There is no law against a private prosecution running its course through verdict to sentencing.

Even if the prosecution succeeds, it doesn‘t always mean that the case should have been prosecuted by the CPS.

There will be instances where it is appropriate for the CPS to exercise the Director‘s powers under section 6(2) POA 1985, either to continue the prosecution or to discontinue or stop it.

When asked to do so, the CPS must make a decision on whether or not to take on a private prosecution.

The cases can often fail if police don‘t want to investigate or it the CPS is unwilling to press ahead to trial.

Cases can also be stopped if they interfere with other criminal cases, or if they are considered not in the public interest.

In 2003 she joined Victor Lissack Roscoe & Coleman before being appointed as a district judge for the Magistrates‘ Courts in November 2000.

Her previous high profile cases include that of alleged paedophile Roger Giese, who in 2015 Judge Coleman refused to extradite.

He had been on the run from the FBI since 2007 and Judge Coleman refused to start the extradition process until assurance were received that his human rights would not be breached.

In 2018 he was extradited to the US, where he was wanted for trial in California – charged with sexually abusing a boy aged under 14. 

Mr Ball, a startup entrepreneur from Norfolk, said earlier this month the case was a ‘world first‘.

Speaking before a preliminary hearing he said: ‘This case is a world first, it has never happened before. A member of Parliament has never been prosecuted for misconduct in public office based upon alleged lying to the public.

‘My backers and I aspire to set a precedent in the UK common law making it illegal for an elected representative to lie to the public about financial matters.‘

Mr Ball previously said he raised more than £370,000 across several crowdfunding campaigns to finance the case.

Misconduct in public office is an offence which is only triable by indictment. It carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

It has been claimed that Boris Johnson could face more than six months in prison if found guilty.

Mr Johnson has three charges of misconduct against him, relating to three different incidents.

These relate to two offences before the referendum and then before the 2017 election.

The public misconduct offence is confined to those who hold positions in public office and fail to act in a way that constitutes a breach of the duties of that office. 

Public officers are supposed to carry out their duties for the benefit of the public as a whole and if they do no conduct themselves correctly then this may lead to a breach of the public‘s trust.

The exact amount of money the UK contributes to the European Union‘s budget was one of the biggest issues of the 2016 referendum campaign.

What is misconduct in a public office and can it lead to a jail sentence?

Misconduct in public office is an offence which is only triable by indictment. 

It carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a starting point of six months in prison, meaning Boris Johnson could face jail time if found guilty. 

Mr Johnson has three charges of misconduct against him – two relating to comments made before the 2016 referendum when he was both Mayor of London and an MP, and the other when he made similar comments as an MP before the 2017 General Election. 

The public misconduct offence is confined to those who hold positions in public office and fail to act in a way that constitutes a breach of the duties of that office.

The offence is committed when:

· a public officer acting as such;

· wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself;

· to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public‘s trust in the office holder;

· without reasonable excuse or justification.

Public officers are supposed to carry out their duties for the benefit of the public as a whole and if they do no conduct themselves correctly then this may lead to a breach of the public‘s trust

The Leave campaign attracted criticism for printing a slogan on the side of its battlebus that said: ‘We send the EU £350 million a week.‘

Supporters of the Remain campaign said the figure was misleading as it did not take into account the money the UK receives from the EU in the form of a rebate, as well as payments made to the public sector.

Figures published annually by the Treasury in the document European Union Finances show that the UK‘s net contribution to the EU budget in 2016 was £9.6 billion, or roughly £185 million a week.

The net contribution is not quite the same as money ‘sent‘ to the EU, however.

According to the Treasury‘s data, the UK‘s gross contribution to the EU budget in 2016, before the application of the rebate, totalled £17 billion, or around £327 million a week.

But, as the UK Statistics Authority pointed out during the referendum campaign, the Treasury pays the UK‘s contributions to the EU after deducting the value of the rebate.

The rebate in 2016 was £3.9 billion. Subtracting this from the original figure gives a total of £13.1 billion.

A further subtraction of the EU‘s payments to the UK public sector in 2016 – £3.5 billion – gives the final figure of £9.6 billion, or about £185 million a week.

All these figures are stated in cash terms – in other words, not adjusted for inflation since 2016.

The precise amount of money the UK sends to the EU is difficult to calculate.

European Union payments that are made directly to the private sector, such as universities and research organisations, are not included in the Treasury‘s figures.

An analysis published in November 2018 by the House of Commons Library said that UK organisations receive around £1 billion to £1.5 billion a year directly from the European Commission.

This includes funding for research and innovation as part of the Horizon 2020 programme, and money for education, training, youth and sport through the Erasmus+ scheme.

Leading human rights lawyer blasts ‘deeply uncomfortable‘ ruling 

A leading human rights lawyer blasted the decision to summon Boris Johnson, saying it risked setting a dangerous precedent for UK politics.

Barrister Adam Wagner, who has acted in a host of human rights cases, said he was ‘deeply uncomfortable‘ with the criminal case.

He was among a number of senior lawyers who questioned today‘s decision to proceed with a private prosecution against the former foreign secretary.

Mr Wagner, of Doughy Street Chambers in London, said that ‘MPs need extensive free speech protections as democratic debate should be fierce‘, adding: ‘Misconduct in public office should be reserved for abuse of public office, not lying in heated political debates.‘

He went on: ‘Politicians lie. We have well-established remedies for that: voting them out and parliamentary disciplinary procedures, including losing posts.

‘I am deeply uncomfortable with this being subject of the criminal law.

‘I worry about where this leads. Once you start down the path of litigating political disputes which began fully in the political arena in court, where does it end?

‘This is different to, for example, breaking electoral laws, where the criminal law has been given a role by Parliament.‘

Barrister and former Tory MP Jerry Hayes also questioned the decision, saying: ‘It is ridiculous and should be thrown out, but by a higher authority.

‘The whole point of the legislation and the common law is to stamp out corruption not take politicians to court for dissembling and making false promises.‘

 

Remain obsessive battling to sink BoJo: GUY ADAMS on the man who took £24,000 out of fighting fund to pay himself 

By Guy Adams for the Daily Mail 

Marcus Ball hates lies. He especially hates politicians who lie, a fact trumpeted on his own page on a professional networking website which states: ‘When politicians lie, democracy dies.‘

This is why the 29-year-old is prosecuting .

Mr Ball, pictured at court yesterday, has repeatedly insisted the case has nothing to do with a wish to frustrate . 

It is simply to ‘stop lying in politics‘. All very noble. Yet one man‘s ‘lie‘ is usually another‘s ‘fair comment‘, especially in these vexed political times. So how does Mr Ball live up to his own high-minded ideals?

To find out, let us look at his personal page on the website Crowdfunder, where he launched his legal fight in July 2016.

So what WAS truth of £350million claim? 

The decision to haul Boris Johnson before a court hinges on the repeated claim that leaving the EU will save Britain £350million a week.

Remainers jumped on the number, saying it was an estimated gross figure that did not include rebates the UK receives from Brussels.

In 2016, no one knew for sure what Britain‘s contributions were because the data is published in arrears. The £350million was based on a Treasury estimation.

When the figure was again quoted in 2017, Sir David Norgrove, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, accused Mr Johnson of a ‘clear misuse of official statistics‘ confusing gross and net payments. ‘It also assumes that payments currently made to the UK by the EU, including for example for the support of agriculture and scientific research, will not be paid by the UK government when we leave,‘ he wrote.

The gross figure we gave to Brussels in 2016 was actually £363million a week but does not include the rebate Margaret Thatcher successfully negotiated for Britain in 1984. However, the way the rebate is calculated has changed and the amount differs every year.

Remainers argued that the amount paid to Britain by the EU – around £4.5billion in 2016 – brought the total down further to a net £181million a week. Nigel Farage accepted after the referendum that £350million a week would not be available after Brexit.

 

It was mysteriously deleted at 5.18pm on the 29th of that month. A copy can still be seen on internet archives and it shows the floppy-haired Mr Ball‘s pitch in pursuit of ‘£100,000 minimum‘ from donors.

‘Once these prosecutions have established that politicians did indeed lie to voters, our next step will be to take other action to prevent Brexit,‘ it reads. ‘This may be in the form of a judicial review.‘

Mr Ball‘s statement added that the campaign was being organised with ‘other Remain campaigners‘ and had been born in a Facebook page called The 48 Percent – presumably referring to the minority who voted Remain. 

All of which suggests his intention, at the time, was very much to stop Brexit. Despite the large number of times he subsequently insisted that wasn‘t the case.

So were his own aforementioned public statements lies? Did he simply misspeak? Or have his views evolved over time?

Then there‘s the issue of Mr Ball‘s finances.

The fundraising website explained: ‘This is a non-profit campaign. The people involved are volunteering their time freely.‘

In October 2016, Mr Ball repeated this line, saying he had ‘worked unpaid on the campaign for the past three months.‘

That position has evolved, too. 

At some point, Mr Ball decided not to volunteer his time freely. He recently told an interviewer that he was paying himself a salary of ‘around £24,000‘ from his crowd-funding kitty.

This money will have supplemented his other earnings, which according to Mr Ball‘s personal website, come from his varied career as a ‘prosecutor‘, ‘reformer‘, ‘speaker‘ and ‘writer‘.  

That site, which is adorned with pictures and videos of Mr Ball, represents an intriguing exercise in personal branding.

On the page devoted to his public speaking career, for example, it says that since 2010 he has earned money from ‘speaking in public and teaching public speaking skills‘.

The page is illustrated with the logos of a number of major institutions which have invited him to speak, including the University of Cambridge.

However, Mr Ball, who was educated at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent, is believed to have given only one talk in Cambridge – in the last academic year, to Peterhouse College. 

That appears to be the limit of his dealings with Cambridge. Intriguingly, Mr Ball‘s website also says he‘s contributed to Russia Today, the controversial Kremlin-funded TV station recently fined by Ofcom for breaching broadcasting standards during coverage of the Salisbury poisonings.

The website carries the logo (a two-headed eagle resembling a coat of arms) of an organisation called Ambition House. In fact, it‘s a company Mr Ball founded in 2012 to ‘provide unique training and education to students and graduates‘ but which has since been dissolved.

Mr Ball is a director of three other companies: Think of a Name Later Ltd, a software development firm founded in 2016 but which has been dormant since then; a PR firm incorporated in 2017, which was due to file accounts last month, but hasn‘t. 

And finally Brexit Justice Ltd, which seems to have been created to run his legal campaign against Boris Johnson, and whose latest accounts show assets of just £22,000.

Several are registered to his family home, a £630,000 property near Norwich Cathedral. Mr Ball was born in the Norfolk city in 1989, the son of a retired English teacher.

His birth certificate lists his name as Joshua Edwin Ball. At some point during adulthood, it is believed he changed it by deed poll, to Marcus, for £15. It‘s unclear why.

But as Boris Johnson will doubtless reflect, this is a man with a habit of seeking to re-write history. 

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