London Mayor Boris Johnson is to be investigated over his intervention to prevent an "ex-gay" advert being displayed on London buses.
A court ruled today that Johnson's role in stopping Transport for
London from accepting the advert must be investigated by the High Court.
The advert was placed by the Christian Legal Centre and Core Issues
Trust and featured the strapline, "Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud.
Get over it!".
It was a response to ads previously run on London buses by gay lobby
group Stonewall, reading "Some People are Gay. Get over it!"
The Christian Legal Centre challenged Johnson's intervention on the grounds that it was politically motivated.
Such an intervention by Johnson would be a serious overreach of his
political authority, and a demonstration of favouritism to Stonewall,
whose adverts ran without interference.
The court ruling on the case today heard evidence in relation to an
email from Guto Harri, the Mayor's Communications Director at the time,
which read, "Boris has just instructed TfL to pull the adverts [and]
I've briefed the Guardian [who] will break that news in next half hour."
The second most senior judge in England and Wales, Master of the
Rolls, Sir John Dyson, said in his ruling: "There is now in evidence an
email which unequivocally states that the Mayor instructed TfL to pull
"[The email] shows that the Mayor's office contacted the Guardian
immediately in order to make political capital out of the story ...
arrangements had been made for the Mayor to appear... at hustings
organised by Stonewall [the following day].
"This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs ... If the Mayor took the decision, the question arises what his motives were."
In its response, the Christian Legal Centre hailed a "significant victory".
"The courts have fulfilled an historic duty of holding politicians to
account and refusing to tolerate non transparent behaviour," it said. "The decision of the court is one of the most significant in recent
times in ensuring that powers are exercised by politicians properly."
Previous hearings in March last year had gone ahead without access to
the email evidence.
In her ruling at the time, Ms Justice Lang had
described the removal of the adverts as "procedurally unfair, in breach
of [Transport For London's] own procedures and demonstrated a failure to
consider the relevant issues".
However, she considered the banning of the advert as legitimate because it would "cause grave offence" to the gay community.
She also listed other advertisements, such as Stonewall and the
British Humanist Association's "There's probably no God" poster - as
breaching TfL's policy and being equally deserving of a ban.
However, Stonewall has continued its advertisements without
hindrance, ignoring the initial ruling which has now been affirmed by
He stated that Justice Lang was entitled to rule on the matter of the
Stonewall advertisement, and that her conclusion was accurate also. In
his judgement, he agreed that the "the Stonewall advertisement had
failed to comply with the [TfL] policy".
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal
Centre, said: "The effect of such a ruling means that the past and
present campaign being run by Stonewall breaches Transport for London's
Advertising standards and is illegal. Stonewall knows this but has
brazenly decided to pursue its agenda.
"In a mature democracy both sides of a debate should be heard but it
seems that Boris Johnson, Transport for London and Stonewall are intent
to shut down the Christian side of the debate by fair means or foul.
"It is a great relief that the Master of the Rolls has ruled to hold
to account arbitrary use of the exercise of power by a public
Director of the Core Issues Trust, Dr Mike Davidson, has written a
letter calling on Johnson to make all e-mail records, current, past, and
previously deleted, available to the trust's lawyers.
"As I am sure you will be aware, the political credibility of
politicians is at an all-time low ... Your openness, transparency and
integrity in helping with pre-court access to these matters will be much
He added: "If such access is not offered, our lawyers will petition
Mrs Justice Lang to order such access as part of further enquiry as the
Master of the Rolls has so directed."
However, Sir John rejected arguments from the Christian Legal Centre
that the removal of the advertisements amounted to a breach of freedom
He also dismissed suggestions that a "right to buy" and "right to
reply" permitted Core Issues Trust to display the posters in response.
He took the position that while Stonewall's adverts were intended to
promote tolerance, that fact in itself did not make them respectful to
people of faith.
He also included an affirmation that ex-gays are protected by the
Equality Act 2010 as any discrimination against them is "because of ...
sexual orientation" and that it is not relevant whether the
discrimination is based on past or current sexuality.