Boris Johnson’s position as Prime Minister untenable, says Tory MP

The idea that Boris Johnson can survive as Prime Minister after receiving a fixed penalty notice for attending a birthday party in breach of Covid rules is “just impossible”, a Tory MP has said.

Nigel Mills is thought to be the first Tory backbencher to call for Mr Johnson to fall on his sword since the Prime Minister and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak were hit with criminal sanctions for attending a gathering in the Cabinet Room in June 2020.

The MP for Amber Valley told the PA news agency “we have every right to expect higher standards of people making these laws.”

Both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak apologized on Tuesday and confirmed they had paid the fines imposed by the Metropolitan Police.

But they resisted calls for their resignations – insisting they were keen to now get on with the job.

However, when asked if he thought Mr Johnson’s position was untenable, Mr Mills said: “Yeah, I think for a Prime Minister in office to be given a fine and accept it and pay it for breaking the laws that he introduced… is just an impossible position.

“We have every right to expect higher standards of people making these laws… so the idea that he can survive having broken one and accepted he has broken (it), I just think is impossible.”

On whether Parliament should be recalled to enable a change of leadership as soon as possible, Mr Mills conceded “it would be almost impossible to recall Parliament before Tuesday when we’re back anyway”.

He added: “There’s almost zero chance that a motion of confidence in the House of Commons would be lost.

“So, we can all send our letters to Sir Graham Brady… to be honest though, I’d be very surprised if he either resigns or there’s 180 of us that want rid of him. So I think he will carry on for now.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the Prime Minister on Wednesday morning, saying he is “human” and did not knowingly break the law.

Asked on Sky News how Mr Johnson can “possibly remain in office”, Mr Shapps said: “Everyone is human, people sometimes make mistakes.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA)

(PA Wire)

On whether Mr Johnson misled Parliament, Mr Shapps told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme: “I don’t think he knowingly broke the laws when he came to Parliament. We now know that the Metropolitan Police have said that he shouldn’t have stepped into the Cabinet Room when staff had organized a surprise.

“I don’t think he came to Parliament thinking that that breached the rules.”

For the time being, Mr Mills’ comments come in stark contrast to the ones made by many other Tory MPs, who have shown their support for the Prime Minister on social media, with Cabinet ministers praising his leadership during Covid and Brexit and pointing to the war in Ukraine.

Conservative former Cabinet minister Lord David Frost told LBC he does not think a fixed penalty notice is “in itself grounds for resignation”.

However, he added: “I think it’s very important in our constitutional system that correct information is given to Parliament, so I hope the Prime Minister comes to the House on Tuesday and makes it clear what the actual position is.”

Meanwhile, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP have continued to back calls for the Commons to be recalled from its two-week Easter break to allow the Prime Minister to “tender his resignation” in person to MPs.

Mr Shapps dismissed those calls, saying on BBC Breakfast “there will be plenty of time to discuss this next week and Parliament will come back and do that as well as the issues of the war crimes we see in front of our eyes in Europe, and many other important issues”.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak do not seem to understand how “deeply offensive” their lockdown breaches are.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “People have never made, collectively or personally, the sacrifices that were made during the pandemic outside of wartime and the Prime Minister and the Chancellor still don’t seem to understand how deeply offensive it is, especially to those who lost loved ones, or who were not there for the birth of their child, or for the death of a loved one.”

Tuesday’s ends came in a further tranche of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) announced by Scotland Yard in relation to Operation Hillman, which is probing possible Covid breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie (PA/Peter Byrne)

(PA Archive)

More than 50 fines have been referred to the Acro Criminal Records Office since the inquiry started.

Mr Johnson did not rule out the prospect he could be fined again for further events.

He is reported to have attended six of the 12 under investigation.

It also emerged on Tuesday that Carrie Johnson, Mr Johnson’s wife, had received and paid a fine linked to the event on June 19 2020, at which, according to Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns, the Prime Minister was “ambushed with a cake”.

Speaking to broadcasters at his country residence, Checkers, on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said it “did not occur” to him at the time that the party for which he was fined might be breaching Covid rules.

Mr Sunak offered an “unreserved apology”, saying he understood that “for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence”.

A spokesperson for Mrs Johnson said: “Whilst she believed that she was acting in accordance with the rules at the time, Mrs Johnson accepts the Metropolitan Police’s findings and apologises unreservedly.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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