Mon, 27 May 2024

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By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
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Former Prime Minister John Major Accuses Boris Johnson Of Breaking The Law Over Downing Street Parties

3 min read

Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major has accused Boris Johnson and Number 10 officials of having broken the law and damaging Parliament's reputation by attending alleged lockdown breaching parties in Downing Street.

Delivering a key note address at the Institute for Government, Major indicated that he believes Boris Johnson should resign if he is found to have misled Parliament by stating that Covid guidance was “followed at all times” in Number 10 at the despatch box in December last year.  

The former Prime Minister also said that the partygate scandal has damaged Parliament's reputation and made the the government look "distinctly shifty". 

“Day after day the public was asked to believe the unbelievable,” Major said.

“Ministers were sent out to defend the indefensible – making themselves look gullible or foolish,” the former Prime Minister added.

“Collectively, this has made the Government look distinctly shifty, which has consequences that go far beyond political unpopularity.”

In a significant intervention into the partygate scandal by the Tory veteran, Major accused government of having "dreamed up" a series of "brazen excuses" to defend the Prime Minister following an update to Sue Gray's investigation into Downing Street parties. A Metropolitan Police inquiry into a into potentially illegal gatherings at the top of government during lockdown is also underway. 

In the update to her investigation released last week, Gray said that gatherings held at Downing Street in breach of coronavirus restrictions represented "failures of leadership and judgement" by both Number 10 and the Cabinet Office.

The twelve-page document also showed that a "gathering" at Boris Johnson's Downing Street flat on 13 November 2020 is one of 12 events being investigated by the Met Police.

On Wednesday the force said they will review their decision not to investigate a thirteenth event – a Christmas quiz held at Downing Street on 15 December 2020 – after The Mirror published photos of Boris Johnson at the event alongiside an open bottle of prosecco.

"The lack of trust in the elected portion of our democracy cannot be brushed aside," Major said. 

"Parliament has a duty to correct this. If it does not, and trust is lost at home, our politics is broken." 

Alongside discussing partygate, Major also criticised the government over its handling of a host of issues, including the small boats crisis and Brexit. 

The former Prime Minister described the Northern Ireland Protocol as "arguably one of the worst pieces of negotiation that we have seen in recent history".

"It does help, if you sign treaties, if you understand them before you sign them,” Major said. 

Priti Patel's landmark Nationality and Borders Bill, which seeks to criminalise entering the UK to claim asylum through unofficial routes, was also criticised by Major as being "decidedly un-British". 

"Can it really be a crime to be frightened; homeless; desperate; destitute; fleeing from persecution, or war, or famine, or hardship; and to cross half the world on foot and dangerous waters in an unsafe boat, in the hope of finding a better life?" Major questioned. 

On the crisis at the border of Ukraine and Russia, where Vladimir Putin is currently threatening further invasion, Major said that the UK could possibly offer further military support.  

"We will consider what more we can conceivably offer. The Ukrainians are well prepared...I don’t want to rule this out, but at the moment we think the package is the right one."

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