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Partygate: Justice minister David Wolfson quits over Covid law-breaking


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A Conservative politician has quited as a justice minister over Covid law-breaking in Downing Street.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined for attending a party in No 10 during lockdown.

In a letter to Mr Johnson, Lord David Wolfson criticised the “official response” to “repeated rule-breaking”.

He is the first person to quit the government since reports of lockdown parties emerged.

Barrister Lord Wolfson has been a justice minister since December 2020, with responsibility for human rights and the constitution.

In his resignation letter, he said the “scale, context and nature” of Covid breaches in government was inconsistent with the rule of law.

He added that he had “no option” other than to resign, given his “ministerial and professional obligations” in this area.

“It is not just a question of what happened in Downing Street, or your own conduct,” he wrote to the PM. “It is also, and perhaps more so, the official response to what took place.”

Opposition parties have said Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak must quit after being fined for attending the event in June 2020.

The fine meant Mr Johnson became the UK’s first serving prime minister to be sanctioned for an offence under criminal law.

But he and Mr Sunak have rejected calls to resign, instead insisting they wanted to get on with their jobs.

Cabinet ministers have backed the pair, whilst only one Conservative MP has publicly called for Mr Johnson to stand down.

Conservative MP Nigel Mills said it was “unacceptable” that Mr Johnson had broken rules which he himself had set during the pandemic.

There hasn’t been much public criticism of Boris Johnson from his own side since the police fined him for breaking Covid rules.

But the resignation of Lord Wolfson reflects private concerns that some have.

Former Justice Secretary David Gauke said he was “not surprised” at Lord Wolfson’s resignation.

“I think it’s a particularly uncomfortable issue for anybody in the Ministry of Justice or for that matter the law officers,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

In a tweet, Labour’s shadow justice secretary Steve Reed praised Lord Wolfson “for taking a principled stand”.

He asked what this means for Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, “who’s constitutionally charged with upholding the law but is instead condoning law-breaking”.

Mr Raab was among the cabinet ministers to have publicly backed Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak.

Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said Lord Wolfson’s resignation showed that voters had “had enough of Boris Johnson acting as though he is above the law”.

“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak should both go, so we can focus on what really matters – giving families the support they need to weather the cost of living crisis,” she said.

Reports of parties being held in Downing Street during lockdowns first emerged in December last year, with Mr Johnson initially insisting that “guidelines were followed at all times”.

Mr Sunak also told the Commons: “I did not attend any parties.”

The PM then ordered an inquiry into the allegations of rule-breaking, led by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

The Met initially said it would not retrospectively investigate the allegations unless “significant evidence” of a regulation breach came forward.

But after Ms Gray passed information to officers, they launched their own inquiry.

Her full report will not be released until the Met have concluded their investigation.



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