A HIGH-PROFILE legal campaigner who took the UK Government to court over contracts handed out during the coronavirus pandemic has criticised the BBC for a “curious” interview with him following a judge’s ruling today.

A High Court judge ruled that the Government broke the law when it handed a contract to a firm whose bosses were friends of Dominic Cummings.  

The Good Law Project took action against the Cabinet Office over the move to pay half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money to market research company Public First, questioning the involvement of the Prime Minister’s former chief adviser.

READ MORE: UK Government broke the law by handing Covid contract to Dominic Cummings's chums

Justice O'Farrell considered rival arguments at a virtual High Court hearing in February and delivered a ruling today.

The judge said: "The claimant is entitled to a declaration that the decision of 5 June 2020 to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful."

Jolyon Maugham was invited to speak to the BBC’s World at One programme following the ruling – but later questioned the broadcaster’s approach.

“A judge has just found Govt’s conduct unlawful and characterised by the appearance of favouritism to friends: a striking thing,” he wrote on Twitter. “But the interview gave me little space to explain the implications and argued Govt’s case against me.

“It’s progress of a sort, I suppose. They never even had me on when I was winning all the Brexit cases. But I continue to think the BBC reveals itself in these interviews: as a defender of power rather than as interested in the accountability of power.”

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The barrister claimed that the corporation’s “attack-minded positioning” left him feeling that by exposing the Government it was him “who had done something wrong”.

“I expect this thread will mean, umm, a delay before my next BBC appearance,” he wrote. “And that’s a problem because the BBC utterly dominates news consumption.”

However he has “made peace with that”, the QC concluded.

Sarah Montague was interviewing Maugham for the programme. She began: “What is your response to this, because not everything went in your favour with this judgement.”

The National:

Maugham and Joanna Cherry during their Brexit case

He responded: “Judicial review cases, particularly at highly politicised spheres like this one, are enormously difficult to win. The most meaningful finding, the one we really wanted in truth, is the one we got. The finding that there was apparently favouritism in the awarding of this contract to Public First.

“We exposed the VIP lane and this contract award is very much in the same vein.”

BBC host Montague interrupted: “Okay well we should say, we asked the ... we obviously asked Michael Gove for an interview.

"What we did get back from the Cabinet Office was a statement in which they make the point that the judgment makes clear there was no suggestion of actual bias, and the decision to award the contract was not due to any personal or professional connections.”

Maugham replied to say that wasn’t quite right.

“The public law test is apparent bias. So what we had to show, and we did show, was that a reasonable observer would think there was a likelihood that the contract went to Public First because of favouritism. And the court found in our favour on that point.

"The court made no finding, in fact, about whether there was actual bias. We didn’t run actual bias.”

He described the Cabinet Office statement as “a bit misleading”.

The interviewer went on to say that the Cabinet Office insists it was procedural elements suggesting apparent bias, or a perception of bias.

“We think there is a lot more to be seen here,” the campaigner told Montague. “And we are determined through the slate of continuing judicial reviews to get to the bottom of it.”

Professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, Tim Bale, commented: "I listened. It's what happens when the Government (as is becoming increasingly common) fails to put anyone up to represent it, preferring instead to 'issue a statement'. The show's presenter then feels obliged to put its case instead. All of which suits the Government nicely."

The BBC has been contacted for comment.

The owner of Public First, Rachel Wolf – who runs the firm with husband James Frayne – previously worked as an adviser to Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Cummings. She co-wrote the Tory manifesto ahead of the 2019 General Election.

Following today’s ruling a spokesperson for the company said: "We're deeply proud of the work we did in the early stages of the pandemic, which helped save lives.

"The judge rejected most of the Good Law Project's claims, not finding actual bias in the awarding of this work, nor any problems with the pace or scale of the award.

"Rather, the judge found that weak internal processes gave rise to the appearance of bias. The judge made no criticism whatsoever of Public First anywhere in the judgment."