Why I resigned over partygate

14 April 2022

4:02 AM

14 April 2022

4:02 AM

This is an edited version of Lord Wolfson’s resignation letter, following the Met’s decision to fine Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak over Downing Street parties which broke Covid restrictions in 2020.

Dear Prime Minister,

It was a great honour to be invited to join your government as a justice minister. In my maiden speech, I twice used the phrase ‘justice and the rule of law’. Justice may often be a matter of courts and procedure, but the rule of law is something else – a constitutional principle which, at its root, means that everyone in a state, and indeed the state itself, is subject to the law.

I regret that recent disclosures lead to the inevitable conclusion that there was repeated rule-breaking, and breaches of the criminal law, in Downing Street. I have – again, with considerable regret – come to the conclusion that the scale, context and nature of those breaches mean that it would be inconsistent with the rule of law for that conduct to pass with constitutional impunity, especially when many in society complied with the rules at great personal cost, and others were fined or prosecuted for similar, and sometimes apparently more trivial, offences. It is not just a question of what happened in Downing Street, or your own conduct. It is also, and perhaps more so, the official response to what took place. As we obviously do not share that view of these matters, I must ask you to accept my resignation.

We can only undertake legal reforms at home – and also credibly defend democratic norms abroad, especially at a time of war in Europe – if we are, and are seen to be, resolutely committed both to the observance and also to the rule of law.

In Somerset’s Case in 1772, which famously held that the institution of slavery was contrary to the common law in England and Wales, Lord Mansfield CJ exclaimed ‘fiat justitia rust caesium‘ – let justice prevail, though the heavens fall. I am very sorry that the sky has prematurely fallen in on my current ministerial career, but I have concluded that, consistently with both my ministerial and professional obligations to support and uphold the rule of law, I have no option other than to tender my resignation.

Yours sincerely,

Lord (David) Wilson of Tredegar QC

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