Boris Johnson is the first sitting prime minister to have broken the law.
In his introduction to the Ministerial Code, Boris Johnson states the ‘precious principles of public life’ – integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest – ‘must be honoured at all times.’ Breaking the law is incompatible with honouring these principles.
The Ministerial Code also states ‘Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation.’ On December 1st, the Prime Minister said to Parliament ‘that all guidance was followed completely in Number 10.’ This statement, alongside others, appears to mislead Parliament.
The civil servant tasked with investigating ‘gatherings’ on government premises found in her initial report there to be ‘a serious failure’ to observe standards alongside ‘failures of leadership and judgement.’
The Metropolitan Police has to date found 50 instances of illegality within Downing Street and / or the Cabinet Office as part of their investigation relating to parties during Covid lockdown.
It is not possible to defend the Prime Minister’s actions, his words, or his leadership of 10 Downing Street in relation to parties without diminishing the Ministerial Code, the Nolan Principles which set out the standards of conduct in public life that we are entitled to expect, or the values of a liberal democracy.
Furthermore it is not possible to reconcile the actions of the UK Prime Minister with the values of Open Government as defined by the Open Government Partnership of which the UK is a member: ‘accountable government requires high ethical standards and codes of conduct for public officials.’
When standards of conduct we are entitled to expect of our public figures are not followed; when rules are broken by those who imposed them to save lives; when a justice minister resigns because the actions of the government are ‘inconsistent with the rule of law,’ something is wrong.
The battle for democracy against autocracy is not just taking place on the streets of Ukraine. It is taking place in every liberal democracy in the world where society’s rules and standards are not upheld by the powerful. It is taking place here.
The Prime Minister should resign.
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