Douglas Murray

Is Julian Assange the world’s worst tenant?

Is Julian Assange the world’s worst tenant?
Text settings

Before taking up residence at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Assange lived at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk. This was at the invitation of his then-supporter Vaughan Smith, who lived with his family at that house. According to Andrew O’Hagan’s memoir of this time, ‘Ghosting’, Assange was a nightmare house guest. O’Hagan was ghost-writing Assange’s memoirs at that time – before the two fell out (like everyone else Assange has ever worked with). Of that time O’Hagan records:

‘I’d always been amazed at how Vaughan Smith and his family had been able to cope with the whole studenty WikiLeaks charabanc in their house – the Smiths have small children – with its all-night rituals and almost comically bad table manners. Julian had a way of making himself, in his own eyes, impervious to the small matters that might detain others. If you told him to do the dishes he would say he was trying to free economic slaves in China and had no time to wash up.

There were reports of unsanitary habits as well as anti-social hours. But Vaughan seemed to think that it was all in a good cause, so he put up with it.

Then to thank the man who had put up with him in his house for all those months Julian Assange skipped bail. Knowing that one of those who had put up the bail was his host – Vaughan Smith. A court eventually reduced the £20,000 of bail for which Vaughan was liable. So the eventual bill Vaughan ended up paying for the unsanitary man who had lived in his house was only £12,000. 

Ordinarily this would win the prize for worst house-guest. But now Assange has – as so often – bested himself. It has just been announced that he is going to sue the government of Ecuador. Although he has been voluntarily living in that country’s Knightsbridge embassy for the last six years, Assange now claims that the Ecuadorean government has been violating his ‘fundamental rights and freedoms. Among the complaints will be the question of internet access. For some months Assange has been cut off from using the internet and he appears characteristically unable to understand why anyone should cut him off from the medium, when he has such a harmless history in the area.

Of course there is a very easy way for Assange to sort this out. Rather than suing his hosts, he should simply step outside of the Ecuadorean embassy. He has already stayed there long enough. For instance he has stayed there long enough for the statute of limitations to have run out on a rape-claim made against him in Sweden. Assange’s supporters regard this as a great victory. Which is strange since this is an era which tends to think that women who claim to have been raped should be believed. Interestingly, the people who still unquestioningly support Assange have adopted the position that all rape claims should be believed unless they are made against Julian Assange.

Anyhow – it seems unlikely that Assange will step out to face the music on the various other charges which might be brought against him. Charges which might begin with skipping bail but could presumably run to the issue of undermining the intelligence gathering capabilities of numerous Western countries (but inexplicably never those of Russia). We shall see. Meanwhile, it is interesting to watch the Ecuadorean government learn a lesson in ingratitude which almost any associate of Assange could have warned them about a very long time ago.

Written byDouglas Murray

Douglas Murray is Associate Editor of The Spectator. His most recent book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity is out now.

Topics in this articleInternational