Junior justice minister Lord David Wolfson has quit the government for “repeated rule-breaking” in Downing Street in what is the first ministerial resignation after Boris Johnson was handed a police fine yesterday.
Wolfson said in a resignation letter to the PM that “the scale, context and nature” of the breaches of Covid rules by the PM and other officials “mean that it would be inconsistent with the rule of law for that conduct to pass with constitutional impunity, especially when many in society complied with the rules at great personal cost”.
The barrister said he was “sorry the sky has prematurely fallen in on my current political career”, but that staying in the role meant he could no longer be said to “support and uphold the rule of law”.
Johnson apologised last night for breaching Covid restrictions in June 2020 when he attended his own work birthday party in Downing Street, however he vowed to stay on as Prime Minister.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Carrie Johnson were also fined for attending the event.
Tory MPs, including those who previously called for Johnson to resign at the height of the partygate scandal in January, have largely rowed behind the PM and said he should not leave while Russia is waging war in Ukraine.
Nigel Mills today became the first Tory MP to call for Johnson’s resignation today.
Mills told the BBC: “In all conscience I don’t think a Prime Minister can survive or should survive breaking the rules he put in place and he was on the TV every few nights, reminding us all that we should observe.
“We have to have higher standards than that of people at the top. He has been fined, I don’t think his position is tenable, in my view.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said Johnson acted “without malice” and that he did not “knowingly break laws”.
“I don’t seek to say anything other than it’s deeply disappointing. Of course, it should have done,” he told the BBC.
“I think in answer to your question, specifically, he will have already been in that room with the same people that day chairing crisis meetings on the world’s biggest pandemic for over 100 years.
“And he walks in by surprise and into the same room to the people who wished him happy birthday on this occasion. And that’s of course the thing which breached the law, and the police have ruled on that and he has paid the fixed penalty notice of £50 and apologised.”
The Met’s investigation into more than a dozen Downing Street and Whitehall events during strict Covid restrictions is continuing, leaving the possibility open of Johnson receiving more fines.
A report by senior civil servant Sue Gray into the saga is also expected to be released in its entirety, after it was held up by the police investigation.