Voices: Ignore the pantomime outrage – the Tories are delighted with the Colston Four verdict

·3-min read

Bang, to the beat of the drum. Bang bang. On they go, the usual cast of Tory clockwork monkeys, clattering at their deadening cymbal with metronomic predictability. But for the first time in a while, it seems fit to ask the question whether anyone cares anymore.

The most depressing aspect of the dreary reaction to the Colston Four verdict is that the jury probably gave them what they wanted in the end. The not guilty verdict might initially have come as a shock to Boris Johnson and his entourage of single-celled cleaner algae, which is to say Dowden, Jenrick, Braverman and the rest. But they’ve wasted no time in seeking to deploy it to their advantage. Johnson’s pantomime outrage got him a front page on the Daily Mail, which may be the first time in three months that he has managed to give it something else to write about beyond his rolling sh*tshow of lies, corruption, sleaze and failure.

“We undermine the rule of law, which underpins our democracy, if we accept vandalism and criminal damage are acceptable forms of political protest,” said Jenrick. Hardly needs pointing out that what undermines the rule of law is a former cabinet minister seeking to undermine the result of a jury trial. At least Jenrick is not in the cabinet anymore, though he very much was when it unlawfully prorogued parliament, and also when it boasted, at the despatch box of the House of Commons, of its intention to break international law “in a very limited and specific way”. Still, at least he has plenty of undermining experience to draw on.

The Conservative Party chairman, Oliver Dowden, who was the culture (war) secretary at the time of the incident, has said, via a “source close to Oliver Dowden”, which as anyone who has been a journalist for more than 30 seconds knows means Oliver Dowden, said he “thinks that people who commit criminal damage should be held to account regardless of the circumstances”. The “source close” to Oliver Dowden had, alas, stopped standing close enough to Oliver Dowden to find out exactly what the great man thought being “held to account” means, beyond being arrested, charged and prosecuted in a criminal court.

Still, his colleague, the attorney general Suella Braverman, has offered a partial explanation. “Trial by jury is an important guardian of liberty and must not be undermined,” she has explained, before dropping a giant, “however” and announcing she is in the process of deciding whether to refer it to the court of appeal.

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Even if she ultimately decides not to, it is notable that the so called Colston Four did not face prosecution under new legislation that intends to make damaging a public monument punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a longer sentence than is customarily handed out for rape or sexual assault. It has been pointed out many times that, when the legislation passes, bronze men will have rights beyond real-life women.

It’s no surprise to see them react this way when things don’t go precisely as they wish. The more important question is whether they’ve now been found out. When Boris Johnson tried to co opt Owen Paterson’s corruption and use it as a weapon to take down the standards commissioner herself, who was also investigating his absurd six figure flat renovations, he set in motion what has come to feel like a chain of outrageous scandals from which his reputation is unlikely to recover.

That a jury, selected at random, presented with the actual facts, can see through the government’s fatuous nonsense without realising they’re doing it, might be sufficient to set alarm bells ringing. For the first time in a very long time, could it possibly be that more of the public than they previously thought are also tired of this drivel? They will have to hope they’re not, as it’s now overwhelmingly clear that they’ve got absolutely nothing else to offer.

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