(Written 19th May, 2023. For audio version of this letter, please visit my YouTube channel.)
Dear Andrew Bridgen MP,
Following your sensational expulsion from the Conservative Party, and new allegiance with the Reclaim Party, you have attracted an enormous amount of attention, throughout mainstream and social media alike. Whilst some see you as an "anti-vax conspiracy theorist", and others see you as a "hero truth-teller", you have, for both 'sides', become a prominent, high-profile figure in the current cultural and political wars.
As such - and as all high-profile figures in such shark-infested waters as the media and politics should expect - we the undersigned would like to ask you some pertinent questions, if we may, to clear up some uncertainty and ambiguity on some very key issues. Please note this letter has two signatories, Miriam Finch and Jonathan Tilt. Where "I" is used, please infer the statement relates to Ms. Finch, and where "we" is used, it refers to us both.
First, to lay my cards on the table: I too am what Mr. Matt Hancock would likely describe as an "anti-vax conspiracy theorist", having been opposed to the Covid injections since before they came to market, and having run a resource educating people on vaccine dangers since 2015 (I now also run another resource, specifically relating to the harms of the Covid vaccine, and other related "pandemic" measures).
All throughout the pandemic, I fought hard to help others assert their legal rights to decline vaccines, as well as opposing mask and test mandates, endeavours which led to me, in 2021, acquiring a position as a freelance consultant with a law firm (please note I am no longer active in this role since, once coronavirus restrictions were lifted, demand for my services in this area declined). Hence, I have a fairly robust history of understanding the law and correctly applying it.
Therefore, Mr. Bridgen, I find your publicly stated efforts to "sue Matt Hancock for defamation" to be troubling. Naturally, I would like to be able to support everyone who is courageous enough to speak out against the harms done by the Covid injection, yet I singularly fail to see how raising £250,000 from the public for a defamation claim, as your fundraiser aims to do, is the best, most efficient, effective, or ethical way of doing this.
As I can only assume your legal team has advised you, suing someone for defamation is rarely straightforward or easy, and that a statement may be untrue or upsetting, does not necessarily make it defamatory. Many offensive statements are covered in law by the "honest opinion" defence. If an insulting comment is presented as an honest opinion, then it rarely qualifies as defamation, even if untrue.
It is highly likely that, if this reaches court, Matt Hancock will invoke the "honest opinion" defence - that he will claim he honestly believes you are dangerous and disgusting and an anti-Semite - and that the law should not prevent him from expressing this opinion.
In fact, much as I deeply dislike Mr. Hancock as a person and as a politician, I agree with him on this: he should be allowed to freely express how he feels about you, just as you should be allowed to freely express how you feel about vaccines. Your fundraiser alleges to be about "protecting free speech", but isn't it merely seeking to suppress Mr. Hancock's?
To quote from The Bad Law Project, who I believe sent your initial complaint to Mr. Hancock:
"Free speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative … Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having ... ”
So, were you to be successful in your lawsuit to stop Matt Hancock asserting offensive opinions, this would set a terrifying precedent: that offensive opinions are now illegal; that we cannot call an MP "dangerous and disgusting" (as I think most would agree many are) without risking being sued. That is not a precedent we ever want to see set. The whole point of free speech laws is that they apply to people we oppose saying things we don't like. If they only applied to people we agree with saying nice things, they would be meaningless.
Please let me be very clear here: I believe that Mr. Hancock is guilty of serious crimes against humanity and should be tried before a judge and jury and, if found guilty, sent to prison for the rest of his life.
Yet that is not what "suing him for defamation" seeks to achieve, and I believe that public comprehension of the law and lawsuits is generally rather low (understandably so, because the law is often complex and opaque), meaning that many donating to you have not properly comprehended what you are actually fundraising for.
Not to send Hancock to prison.
Not to have him expelled from the Commons.
Simply a minor "slap on the wrist" for saying mean words - a penalty that, if he receives, could set a legal precedent and thus have the devastating corollary of curtailing free speech for everyone else, too (persons far less able to financially absorb the "hit" of paying damages than the very wealthy Hancock is).
I believe that public contempt for Hancock is so high, and people are so desperate to see Hancock properly held to account, that they have seen a drive alleging to "punish Matt Hancock" and immediately thrown money at it, failing to understand what it is that they are actually financing - and I believe that it is likely that you know this.
Could you therefore please confirm why you are crowdfunding for what is ultimately a rather frivolous campaign, that you in any case have a very slim chance of winning?
Could you also please confirm why you, as a very well-paid MP with rich donor friends, are asking the public to fund this endeavour, rather than funding it yourself? We the public already pay your £84,000 annual salary (more than twice the average UK salary), for a position that also allows you to claim generous expenses (one year, you claimed £25,000 in expenses for staying in a hotel), and it is a matter of public record that you also accept multiple five-figure "gifts" from wealthy supporters and friends.
So, why are we, the cash-strapped general public in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, being asked to bankroll your personal lawsuit?
Leading on from this, if you lose your case (as you likely will), where will all the £250,000 you have raised end up?
Mr. Hancock has already publicly confirmed that, if he wins, he will seek to recover "all costs" (including loss of earnings?), so we know for a start a sizeable chunk will end up with him. Does the donating public understand this and is it not your duty to make this clear to them before they part with their money?
Also, I am unclear on why you are using the "Democracy 3.0" platform to fundraise, rather than a recognised legal fees platform, like Crowdjustice. Crowdjustice explicitly names the solicitors behind every funding drive, and makes it very clear the money really is only for legal fees and going straight to a law firm - that the person or entity behind the fundraiser will not directly benefit themselves.
Yet, try as I might, I can find no information on who your solicitors are (they are not named in the fundraiser), nor any clear confirmation that the £250,000 is indeed solely and exclusively for legal fees. It does seem a very large amount to be seeking, given the average legal costs for a defamation case are between £2,000 and £20,000.
Indeed, from my understanding of the Democracy 3.0 platform, based on their own FAQs, the platform does not specialise in legal campaigns at all, but rather, in public relations (PR). To quote from the website:
"What is the money raised by campaigns spent on? Democracy 3.0’s mission is to democratise political influence by enabling grassroots campaigns with a good cause to be as well resourced as big corporate campaigns. We engage a network of public relations professionals, lobbyists, pollsters and marketers who work on behalf of our platform’s campaigns, helping them achieve their goals. Funds raised here pay for this expertise, transforming those campaigns into engines of real change rather than languishing on an online petition site gathering signatures."
There is no mention of paying lawyers or legal fees. It very much appears that Democracy 3.0 is not geared towards raising legal fees, but rather, to covering PR and marketing costs. Indeed, when he learned of your "defamation case", Matt Hancock dismissed it as having no credible legal basis and being a "publicity stunt", and I'm afraid the fact you are fundraising through what appears to be a PR platform, rather than a legal one, does lend credence to his remarks.
While we are on the subject of fundraising, I would also like to understand why you, as an MP, have not only not demanded an immediate halt to the funnelling of UK tax-payer's money to the corrupt, warmongering, money laundering operation that is the "war in Ukraine", but why you are also hosting a fundraising drive for the regime yourself on your own website. Please can you give a clear explanation for this because I can see no justification whatsoever for it, at least not for a genuine person of integrity. I would of course, be delighted to be proved wrong.
I understand that you now sit as an MP for the Reclaim Party, a new political party headed by celebrity actor and descendant of the Fox acting dynasty, Laurence Fox, making you the party's first sitting MP.
Daisy Cooper, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, has described Reclaim as a "failed fringe political party" and inferred that joining them further undermines your credibility.
Unfortunately, Ms. Cooper does have a point, given Reclaim has never stood a successful candidate, has not stood any candidates at all in the last two years, and has only stood three candidates total since its formation in 2020. Compare this to other pro-freedom parties, such as Freedom Alliance - founded at the same time as Reclaim - which has stood over 200 candidates, and in multiple council and by-elections, since 2021.
I simply am not able to comprehend why you, as a seasoned and experienced politician, would join a party that effectively has no political experience (certainly no successful experience), fronted by a celebrity actor. There are many alternatives to Reclaim - Heritage, for example, led by an experienced politician and with a robust supporting team, and the aforementioned Freedom Alliance, to name just two.
Then there's also the obvious alternative of escaping party politics altogether, and sitting as an independent MP, as, for instance, Jeremy Corbyn chose to, once expelled from the Labour Party. There are several projects that exist to support independent political candidates, such as the Vote Freedom Project and the Democratic Network, which, again, have far more of a demonstrable history of standing and supporting candidates than Reclaim does.
Given these options, what was it about Reclaim, a "failed fringe political party", over all the other far more credible and successful alternatives, that so attracted you?
Was it anything to do with the £5 million in funding they have received from your "mate" (as he described you in 2022), and former Tory party donor, Jeremy Hosking, who had also recently given you a personal, interest-free, five-figure "loan"?
Can you please confirm what Reclaim has used the £5 million in funding for, as it clearly hasn't been used for funding candidate campaigns, and, additionally, what the reasoning is behind standing zero candidates in two years and just three in total - all of whom are well-established celebrities (a well-known actor, a prominent media figure, and a professional comic)?
Frankly, this does not look like the way a serious or genuine political party operates - rather, it looks more like the way a fabricated illusion of one would operate, and that it is fronted by an actor (rather than somebody with political experience), with fellow professional performers constituting the two other candidates, does little to detract from that impression.
I have some political experience myself, having stood as a candidate in three council elections (twice as a Freedom Alliance candidate, and once as an independent candidate), as well as functioning initially as Freedom Alliance's communications officer (an unpaid position), where my primary duty was to raise the party's profile. As such, I am abundantly aware that the establishment seeks to suppress genuine alternatives (Freedom Alliance received almost no mainstream press attention), whilst focusing on "joke parties", like the Monster Raving Loonies, in order to funnel public dissatisfaction with the legacy parties into a dead end.
From where I stand, it looks like Reclaim could also be functioning as such an establishment-controlled "release valve", because, try as I might, I cannot conceive of why any legitimate political party would find it an advisable strategy to stand (next to) no candidates.
Mr. Bridgen, you have, as we asserted at the beginning of this letter, amassed a huge amount of public attention, and a huge amount of public faith - as well as a not inconsiderable amount of money - on top of your publicly-funded generous MP's salary of £84,144, and all the additional "gifts" you receive, your fundraiser currently sits at over £83,000 - multiple years wages' for most people.
It is also worth mentioning that you do have a recent history of being dishonest about money, and were found by a High Court judge to have lied under oath about a seven-figure financial dispute relating to your family business. This judge also labelled you "abusive" and "arrogant".
However, this is not the reputation you have generated in the last few months, with many thousands of people now describing you as a "hero", and putting their trust and hope in you. This gives you a phenomenal level of responsibility to be open and transparent and to do the right thing.
The issues we the undersigned have raised above represent reasonable and legitimate questions, and questions that most reasonable, thinking people would like to see answers to, if they are to continue to trust and support you.
So please, at your earliest possible convenience, address the issues we have raised and therefore enable we the public - who you are paid to represent and serve - to come to the right conclusions about you.
Founder, Informed Consent Matters
Independent Journalist - miri.af.co.uk
Former Legal Consultant - Jonathan Lea Network
Coordinator, Vote Freedom Project
Former Leader, Freedom Alliance