Boris Johnson’s standards adviser has suggested the British prime minister may have broken the ministerial code when he was fined by police for disobeying coronavirus lockdown rules.
Christopher Geidt — Johnson’s independent adviser on ministers’ interests — wrote Tuesday that there was a “legitimate question” over whether Johnson had broken the code governing ministers’ behavior, in reference to the Partygate scandal concerning multiple lockdown parties in Downing Street.
The adviser is appointed by the prime minister to advise him on the ministerial code.
Johnson has come under considerable pressure from his own Conservative MPs over the issue, after he was fined by the Metropolitan Police and saw the culture in his government slammed in a report by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
Geidt added that Johnson had failed to heed his advice to explain to the public and parliament how his actions were within the rules. Under Westminster convention, if the ministerial code is broken, a minister would typically have to resign.
In response, Johnson said he had “no intent to break” COVID regulations and did not believe he had breached the code.
Johnson added that he had corrected the record in the House of Commons, where he had initially claimed no parties had taken place. Deliberately misleading parliament is a breach of the ministerial code.
Thirty of Johnson’s MPs have publicly called for him to resign over Partygate, with a number of them submitting letters of no confidence to the 1922 committee of backbench Conservative lawmakers — part of the process by which Tory MPs can force a vote on removing a party leader.
Under the party’s rules, 54 letters would be required to trigger a vote on Johnson’s future, in which at least half of Tory MPs would need to vote for his resignation to force Johnson to quit.