Interview

Exclusive interview: Man who brought private prosecution against Boris Johnson faces ‘financial ruin’ over £200,000 debt

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Uncertainty over Marcus Ball’s future comes despite crowdfunding over £500,000

Marcus Ball

The man who brought a private prosecution against prime minister hopeful Boris Johnson has told Legal Cheek he faces an uncertain financial future after racking up debts of around £200,000.

Despite crowdfunding over £500,000 over three years to bring the case, Marcus Ball has told this website in an exclusive interview that “in terms of the overall balance sheet, money owed and money left, we’re in the negatives.” When asked if he’s in debt, the director of Brexit Justice Limited responded: “Oh, massive debt, of approximately about £200,000, roundabout.”

Ball’s candid comments come after he attempted to prosecute Johnson for alleged misconduct in public office, specifically his claim that the NHS could receive £350 million extra a week following Brexit. The High Court reversed a decision to issue a summons against the prominent Brexiteer last month.

Sipping a glass of apple juice in a café in London’s trendy Shoreditch, Ball spoke openly about his cashflow situation. His openness was to be expected. After all, he maintains that “if you’re prosecuting someone for [allegedly] lying about money, you cannot be in a position where you’re seen to be lying about money”.

Despite facing a potential hefty costs order, Ball believed that, going forward, he can crowdfund more cash. “If I did not believe in this case and the evidence we’ve got, I would be terrified. I would be fucking panicking,’ he explained. Asked if he intends to take proceedings against Johnson further, Ball told us:

“It is highly likely we will appeal. However, the legal team and I have to define exactly what the appeal is going to be before I confidently announce it. Because I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying, ‘Oh, I’m definitely appealing, I’m definitely appealing’, and then in two weeks my legal team, finding something, are saying, ‘Marcus we can’t appeal because of this’. I have to be 100% sure otherwise it’s not responsible to say it.”

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And yet, Ball admits he’s “totally fucked” if his campaign against Johnson is unsuccessful. “Financially, I’m ruined if this doesn’t happen”, he said. As if to prove his entrepreneurial mentality, he stressed his willingness to bear this costly burden to achieve his ulterior aim: eradicating dishonesty from politics which, he believes, kills democracy. Ball continued:

“I understood this from the beginning, you have to be willing to take that and absorb that risk otherwise nobody else will. This is the advantage I’m in: I’m young, I don’t have a wife or kids to be responsible for, or a mortgage or a car. I don’t have things that rely upon me.”

Such self-sacrifice fits well with his campaign’s narrative, which relies on familiar imagery of an outsider fighting against the establishment, as illustrated by Ball’s widely used hashtag, #BallVJohnson. Indeed, as he was told early on into his campaign, people (and, more importantly, financial backers) respond better to a story if there’s a clear protagonist and an antagonist. Ball didn’t say which one he was in this scenario.

Legal Cheek’s Adam Mawardi with Marcus Ball

Despite his new-found public platform, the Canterbury Christ Church University history grad expressed no interest in pursuing politics, nor legal practice. Rather, providing he can successfully prosecute Johnson, Ball revealed plans to take other politicians to task over their misconduct in public office. Without naming names, Ball cites “obvious cases” including the US elections, MEP expenses scandals and the Iraq War.

Predicting he would crowdfund these endeavours too, Ball appeared inspired by the ‘move fast and break things’ mantra previously popular among the tech start-up community. “Why don’t we use that same way of thinking when it comes to older systems? Why don’t we reform the law and the way democracy works with small, fast-moving teams that are funded in unusual ways?” he questioned.

That said, the sustainability of this crowdfunding model is unclear and depends on first building a track record of success, starting with Johnson. “If I get to the point where I feel that absolutely nothing can be achieved, I cannot justify raising more money from people.”

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