The Prime Minister Should Resign

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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Hi Kevin,

I retweeted your message fairly promptly. My more considered response is that Johnson’s ministerial code merely expects ministers who mislead parliament to resign. Compare that to the Schools Admissions Code which starts by explaining it has the force of law, “and where the words ‘must’ or ‘must not’ are used, these represent a mandatory requirement.” Johnson’s dishonesty it is well established. He and his political party have benefitted enormously from this deceitfulness. Whilst we can all “expect” him to resign I don’t see anything which actually compels this.

I think the most productive approach is to continue to insist on openness and transparency (which also get a shout out in the Nolan Principles/Ministerial Code). I don’t understand where Aaron Banks obtained £8m to fund Vote Leave. I don’t understand the extent of Kremlin funding of the Conservative party. I don’t understand how much our addiction to fossil fuels has paid for genocide in Syria and Ukraine. I’m actively seeking answers but don’t feel I have the facts needed to judge these questions. Imagine how difficult it must be for the average Daily Mail reader?

It’s been suggested that political parties should be publicly funded. One way this might work is to give every voter a modest sum to invest in whichever party or parties they choose. Whilst we’re about it, please could we do something about the House of Lords? This is crying out to be an elected second chamber NOT based on first past the post. We should reduce polling age to 16 and make voting compulsory. The Companies Act could be reformed so that directors’ responsibilities are not just maximising shareholder profit but also taking care of the environments and societies in which companies operate, both domestic and globally. … sorry I seem to have strayed off the point. Keep up the good work.

Best wishes

James Coombs FRSA