Good Law Project: Binfire of the vanities

On 1 November, I noted on Twitter that the month in which we celebrate the glorious failure of the Gunpowder Plot was going to be a big one for Jolyon ‘Che’ Maugham and his (Not Very) Good Law Project, what with the resumption – on 7-8 November – of the Tribunal hearing of the nasty, illiberal attack by Mermaids and the GLP on the LGB Alliance, and – on 29-30 November – the High Court hearing of another of their gender woo-woo cases, Trans healthcare. And in the latter case the judge had, in May this year, somewhat hesitantly granted permission to apply for judicial review while noting “the futility of any declaratory remedy” sought by the GLP.

In addition, on 8-9 November, the Court of Appeal would hear the GLP’s appeal against the High Court’s dismissal, in April, of the GLP’s attempt to challenge ministers’ use of personal emails and messaging apps to conduct government business. And, from 10 November, thanks to a handful of large, anonymous and curiously-sized donations to the associated crowdfunder, the GLP would be funding the defence in court of a libel claim brought against Nina Cresswell over allegations she has made on social media, and trying to “establish when victims can rely on a public interest defence”.

And so it proved: November was a big, bad month for the (Not Very) Good Law Project.

Only a die-hard Jolyonista would argue that the two days of legal submissions that concluded the protracted Tribunal hearing of the attack on the LGB Alliance went well for Mermaids and the GLP. And even he/she/they/fae/zir would have to concede that the two-day Court of Appeal hearing of the ‘ministerial emails’ appeal was not the GLP’s finest hour in court. As one observer noted on Twitter: “Textbook poor lawyering: no draft Order, no clear architecture, judges’ concerns not being met. Comes across as very sloppy.”

However, thanks to some heavy promotion by the GLP, over the five days up to and including the Court of Appeal hearing the associated GLP crowdfunder raked in more than £45,000 from some 2,250 new donors, to add to the some £135,000 previously raised from some 5,550 donors. By 4:15 pm on 8 November, when the first day of the hearing came to an end with the Master of the Rolls offering the GLP’s counsel an extra 15 minutes at the start of the second day to “have another go at making [your] case” – the clear implication being that she had so far failed to do so – the total stood at £179,111. And by the time GLP closed the crowdfunder, a few hours after the end of the second day, it had garnered a stonking £180,203 from 7,823 donors.

One has to wonder how much understanding of the legal merits of the GLP’s appeal those 2,250 new donors had when parting with their cash. In particular, you have to wonder how many fully appreciated that, in April, the High Court drove a steamroller back and fore over the GLP’s case, before ordering the GLP to pay £125,000 of the Government’s legal costs. Or that, in October, in the case of Abingdon Health, the GLP was given another kicking by the High Court on the issue of standing.

Yet only the day before the Court of Appeal hearing, the Great Crowdfunder himself was pontificating on Twitter about “the tension between raising money and being straight about a [crowdfunded] case’s legal merits”. Hmmm.

On 22 November, the GLP revealed that its much-hyped legal action against energy regulator Ofgem has fizzled out, on account of new legal advice to the GLP that their claim has no merit. There was never a Crowdjustice crowdfunder for this case, but since 2 September there had been a dedicated GLP donation page (which – shamelessly or incompetently – remains open, so do feel free to “support the fight for fairer energy prices” with your debit or credit card). However, unlike Crowdjustice crowdfunders, this page doesn’t show the running total of donations made, so we’ll never know how much the GLP raked in for this performative act of futility. Unless they tell us, of course. But Jolyon doesn’t really do transparency.

On 25 November, Jolyon’s great buddy Susie Green, CEO of the troubled and troubling Mermaids, had a conscious but abrupt uncoupling from the organisation she had led for six years. In the words of Hadley Freeman, “all the journalists, teachers, editors and activists” – including the “full-time tweeter, part-time QC and occasional fox murderer”- who “endorsed Green’s obviously ludicrous ideas and shouted down anyone who didn’t [now] need to take a long look at their judgement, their motives and themselves.”

While the three GLP crowdfunders for their gender woo-woo cases – the Mermaids/GLP attack on the LGB Alliance, the Trans healthcare challenge and the grandly-named Legal Defence Fund for Transgender Lives – had between them raked in a whopping £318,620 from more than 9,350 donors by 1 November, the cases haven’t been to the liking of every member of the GLP’s base. On 2 November, one (now former) GLP supporter stated on Twitter: “I stupidly set up a direct debit to [GLP] for Covid contracts scandal. Had no idea about the nature of other cases in the background. Direct debit now cancelled and money being diverted to LGB Alliance. GLP take note. I can guarantee that most of your money comes from women.”

Indeed, the LGB Alliance is not the only organisation that Jolyon and the GLP have tried to punish for wrongthink on gender woo-woo. Those “other cases in the background” include an attempt in June this year by the GLP and Stonewall to persuade the UN body that oversees national human rights institutions to downgrade the Equality & Human Rights Commission. It’s not at all clear how that would have benefitted “marginalised and excluded groups throughout the UK”, but fortunately this was just one more hubristic GLP campaign that ended in failure.

On 29 November – the first day of the High Court hearing of the Trans healthcare case – the judge appeared to echo the concern of his judicial colleague in May about the apparent futility of the litigation, noting that the declaratory relief sought by the claimants would “not advance the position of the claimants at all, as it would not put the claimants higher on the waiting list”. In other words, while the litigation may result in yet another near-worthless bit of paper that Jolyon can wave around, it seems unlikely to make any material difference to trans people seeking NHS treatment. [Update: on 16 January the High Court dismissed the GLP’s claim.]

Maybe December will be a better month for the GLP. And November wasn’t all bad news for the GLP: their open Crowdjustice crowdfunders raked in a cool £98,920. That total includes the above-mentioned £45,423 for the ‘ministerial emails’ appeal, £10,457 for the relatively new ‘sewage dumping’ case, and a stonking £32,423 for the latest money-spinner, Tufton Street, which launched on 25 November.

[Update, 2 December: Well, December didn’t get off to a great start for the GLP, as yesterday their “textbook poor lawyering” in the ‘ministerial emails’ case resulted in the Court of Appeal dismissing their appeal and claim for judicial review. And it is clear from the judgment that the three judges were also not terribly impressed by the GLP’s lawyering, and in particular the GLP’s failure to make clear what relief it was seeking from the Court: “The fact that a claimant is unable or unwilling to particularise the relief that they seek, may be an indication that the claim should not be pursued.” Ouch.

And earlier today the Charity Commission announced that it has opened a statutory inquiry into Mermaids, due to “newly identified issues about the charity’s governance and management”. The words ‘stones’, ‘glass’ and ‘houses’ come to mind. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for Mermaids to accept that “informal advice on law and comms” from Jolyon.]

Anyway, here’s my updated Table of Failure and Futility, showing the sum raised by and outcome to date of the GLP’s 52 Crowdjustice crowdfunders since 2017. And, if you want, you can compare it against the GLP’s own Spreadsheet of Glorious Victories, which on 29 November they (finally) updated to the end of September. I’ll be taking a closer look at that Spreadsheet on this blog in due course.

About wonkypolicywonk

Wonkypolicywonk is a policy minion, assigned wonky at birth, who has been lucky enough to work for two of the very best MPs in the House of Commons, and for Maternity Action, Working Families, Citizens Advice, the National Audit Office, the Law Society, and Amnesty International UK.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Good Law Project: Binfire of the vanities

  1. Jeanette McCrimmon says:

    Appreciate the hard work gone into this article.

  2. Pingback: Good Law Project: Win some lose some | Labour Pains

  3. Pingback: Good Law Project: Not lookin’ like a true survivor | Labour Pains

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s