Justice minister Lord David Wolfson resigns with a scathing rebuke for the government a day after the prime minister, his wife and the chancellor were all fined for breaking lockdown laws.
Wolfson, a distinguished lawyer, said in his resignation letter that he was shocked not only by the extent of law breaking in Downing Street, but also by the “official response” to it.
The justice minister cited the “repeated rule-breaking, and breaches of the criminal law” by Number 10 as reasons for his resignation, explaining the “scale, context and nature” of the law-breaking meant he could no longer serve under Boris Johnson.
In his letter to the PM, Wolfson said a government can only “credibly defend democratic norms abroad, especially at a time of war in Europe, if we are, and are seen to be resolutely committed both to the observance of the law and also to the rule of law.”
Boris Johnson is the first prime minister in British history to have been found to have broken the law and yesterday, after being fined by police, said he will be continuing in the job.
Minister resigns after 50 fines issued
Wolfson becomes the first minister to resign from Boris Johnson’s government following the issuing of more than 50 fines issued yesterday by the Met police as part of their ‘partygate’ investigation. Johnson, Rishi Sunak and the prime minister’s wife Carrie Johnson all confirmed they had been fined £50. The Met is expected to issue more fixed penalty notices as its investigation into other breaches of lockdown laws continues.
Only one Conservative MP, Nigel Mills, has publicly called on Johnson to resign and said he would submit a letter of no confidence in the prime minister.
Johnson yesterday apologised for his actions and while the justice minister resigns, other members of the government and Conservative MPs have rallied to the PM’s defence, trying to play down the extent of the law-breaking and arguing that now is not the time for a leadership challenge given the crises being faced.
Michael Fabricant today doubled down on comments he made yesterday about nurses and teachers having a drink together during lockdown to unwind after a hard shift, drawing more fury from outraged health and education professionals.
The Met police’s investigation into ‘partygate’ revelations has delayed publication of Sue Gray’s full report, but is continuing, meaning Johnson could face further fines for law-breaking at other events.
‘Honour. Integrity. The rule of law. They count’
Addressing the prime minister directly in his resignation letter, Wolfson said: “Justice may often be a matter of courts and procedures, but the rule of law is something else – a constitutional principle which, at its root, means that everyone in a state, and indeed the state itself, is subject to the law.
“It is not just a question of what happened in Downing Street, or your own conduct. It is also, and perhaps more so, the official response to what took place.
“As we obviously do not share that view of these matters, I must ask you to accept my resignation.”
Replying to Wolfson’s post, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alistair Campbell tweeted: “Well done. Honour. Integrity. The rule of law. They count.”