Like Rembrandt or Michelangelo, Mariah or Britney, Jolyon Maugham is a performance artist simply known by his first name. The journey of this Rumpole of remainers from obscurity to Twitter fame was slow but steady. He first hit the headlines during the Ed Miliband years when, as Labour's non-dom adviser, he was revealed to have represented multiple so-called 'celebrity tax dodge film schemes.'
Then came Brexit and his reinvention as the High Priest of remainier. In 2017 he announced plans for his own party – 'Spring' – and his intention to hold a 28-day festival at a Maidenhead football stadium, with each day dedicated to the national dress and cuisine of a different EU member state. Christmas 2019 saw Maugham's magnum opus: splashing the front page of the Financial Times after bragging on social media about battering a fox to death on Boxing Day with a baseball bat while wearing his wife's satin green kimono.
And now, during the Covid years, the Babe Ruth of the bar has regenerated yet again, this time as the truth-seeking crowd-funder chasing dodgy Covid contracts. Only now the vermin-hunting legal eagle has hit a small stumbling block: in his efforts to expose Tory corruption, he has now been accused of libelling a small Stroud company which provided equipment to the NHS during the pandemic.
Platform 14 (P14), based in Gloucestershire, was awarded a £120m contract to supply high-quality face shields. Maugham's Good Law Project has claimed P14 benefitted from political connections and supplied substandard equipment, citing emails released via a Freedom of Information request which showed Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie forwarding details of a local company to the Cabinet Office.
Unfortunately the name of the company was redacted, with Baillie maintaining the company she recommended for a contract was actually called Wear and Care Ltd, which, er, did not get a contract. Yet despite this the Good Law Project last week published a blog which mentioned P14 alongside allegations that Baillie 'channelled' them down 'the VIP lane'. Now, Ben Fear, chief executive officer of P14, has revealed he intends to take legal action.He told BBC Gloucestershire:
“In the article they [the Good Law Project] named Platform 14 and the founder of the company as being given preferential treatment and also supplying poor-quality goods to the NHS during the Covid crisis. All of that is completely unchecked and libellous and unfortunately because of this continued behaviour by the Good Law Project I've been forced to instruct my solicitors to begin proceedings against them.
Maugham's company for their worth are standing firm, declaring: 'People who don't like what we do threaten to sue us all the time. We stand by every word in that blog.' Punchy stuff. Mr S did enjoy the concluding line of the local BBC story which notes drily:
“The BBC has asked for evidence The Good Law Project has of any wrongdoing by Platform 14, but has not had a response.
Looks like it's Jolyon's time to experience the boot on the other foot – or the bat in the other hand.