Minister resigns over PM's conduct and 'official response' to Partygate scandal

“Scale, context and nature” of lockdown gatherings make it “inconsistent with the rule of law” for Boris Johnson and staff to go unpunished, justice minister says
Photo: MoJ

By Eleanor Langford

14 Apr 2022

Justice minister David Wolfson has resigned from government, claiming that Boris Johnson’s "conduct" during his response to the Partygate saga had left him with "no option other than to tender my resignation".

In a letter to Boris Johnson, the Conservative peer said the “scale, context and nature” of gatherings held in Downing Street in lockdown mean it would be “inconsistent with the rule of law” for the prime minister and his staff to go unpunished.

Lord Wolfson added that “many in society complied with the rules at great personal cost”, and that some had been “fined or prosecuted for similar, and sometimes apparently more trivial offences”.

“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,” he wrote. 

The justice minister said it had been an “immense privilege” to work in the government, and that he was “very sorry that the sky has prematurely fallen in on my current ministerial career”.

Johnson said he was "sorry to receive" Lord Wolfson's resignation letter, and said was "grateful for everything" the peer had done during his time in government.

"We have greatly benefitted from your years of legal experience, and you can be proud of the contributions you have made to the government," the letter read.

Wolfson is the first government minister to openly criticise the PM following the latest announcement by the Met Police that he would be issued with a fixed penalty notice alongside his wife Carrie Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak. 

In a televised statement on Tuesday, Johnson said he had already paid the fine and planned to "get on" with his job.

"There was a brief gathering in the cabinet room shortly after 2pm lasting for less than 10 minutes during which people I worked with kindly passed on their good wishes. I have to say in all frankness at that time, it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules," he said.

Ex-Covid taskforce head 'fined over leaving do'

While the Met has said it will not share the names of people it has referred for FPNs, it has now been reported that former Covid Taskforce director general Kate Josephs has been fined.

Josephs, now chief executive of Sheffield Council, was among those to be fined in the first batch of FPNs announced at the end of last month, according to The Telegraph.

In January, Joseph admitted to having held leaving drinks with colleagues in December 2020, while London was under Tier 3 rules banning most indoor mixing between different households.

Josephs was put on discretionary paid leave from her new post after admitting to the rule-breaking event, for which she said she was "truly sorry".

Eleanor Langford is a reporter for CSW sister title PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared

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