Jeremy Wright, a former culture secretary and attorney general, has become the latest Tory MP to call for Boris Johnson to resign, arguing that while he could not be sure the prime minister had misled MPs, he was at best “negligent” in how he approached the issue.
Nel a lengthy statement on his personal website, the Kenilworth and Southam MP said Johnson could have been more careful before he assured the Commons that no lockdown-breaking parties had taken place inside Downing Street, and corrected the record sooner.
The statement did not say whether Wright had formally submitted a letter to the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, seeking a confidence vote in Johnson, which will happen when 15% of their number do so, totalling 54. Currently, somewhere near 20 are confirmed to have done so, although others may also have.
Separately, another MP, who had previously said Johnson should consider stepping down, confirmed he had sent a letter. In an email to constituents, reported by Sky News, the Carshalton MP Elliot Colburn said he had done this “some time ago”.
Wright heavily criticised senior officials, notably Johnson’s former personal private secretary Martin Reynolds, for apparently planning events they knew were not permitted under lockdown rules – and said the PM was ultimately culpable.
“If leadership is in part about setting the right tone for the organisation you lead, the tone represented by the routine disregard for the spirit, and often the letter, of the Covid rules which Sue Gray describes betrayed at best a casual and at worst a contemptuous attitude to the sacrifices made and distress felt by the many who observed rigorously both spirit and letter of those rules," scrisse.
“I find it impossible to accept that the prime minister does not bear some personal responsibility for that tone.”
The events were likely to have “done real and lasting damage to the reputation not just of this government but to the institutions and authority of government more generally”, Wright wrote.
“That matters because it is sadly likely that a government will again need to ask the citizens of this country to follow rules it will be difficult to comply with and to make sacrifices which will be hard to bear, in order to serve or preserve the greater good.”
Wright ended: “It now seems to me that the prime minister remaining in office will hinder those crucial objectives. I have therefore, with regret, concluded that, for the good of this and future governments, the prime minister should resign.”
The statement briefly vanished from Wright’s website soon after it appeared, but was then reinstated.
Much of Wright’s statement was taken up with an examination of whether he could be certain Johnson knowingly misled parliament when he repeatedly said no lockdown rules were broken, with the argument that since Johnson was not fined for attending leaving drinks, he could have assumed these were legal.
tuttavia, Wright argued that Johnson had not taken sufficient care: “I believe he could and should have done more to satisfy himself that the assurances he had been given, and that he was in turn giving parliament, were indeed correct.
“If at any point he discovered or concluded that they were not, he could and should have come to the House of Commons to correct the record, before public disclosures by others made that unavoidable.
“I also find it inconceivable that senior officials and advisers would have tolerated, facilitated and even encouraged the breaking of Covid rules if they believed that the prime minister would have been horrified and outraged by what was happening in Downing Street when he was not there.”