MP Jeremy Wright has called on Boris Johnson to resign in the wake of the Partygate scandal.
The Kenilworth and Southam MP is one of the most prominent Conservative voices yet to openly say it was time for the prime minister to go.
Former attorney general Mr Wright – who served in the cabinets of former prime minister’s David Cameron and Theresa May – has joined a growing band of Tory MPs in condemning the Covid rule-breaking which went on in Downing Street while the country was in lockdown.
The full scale of that rule-breaking within government was exposed in the report by senior civil servant Sue Gray published last week. It criticised the culture and leadership in Downing Street.
The Metropolitan Police has also issued more than 100 fixed-penalty notices as part of its Partygate investigation.
Mr Wright – who is a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which advises the Prime Minister on ethics within government – made his call for a change of leadership in a lengthy and considered statement published on his website.
Mr Wright said he could not be sure the Prime Minister had “knowingly misled” the House of Commons, but in his view there was clear evidence Mr Johnson had been negligent.
Mr Wright said he feared the rule-breaking had “done real and lasting damage to the reputation not just of this government but to the institutions and authority of government more generally.”
He continued: “Putting that right matters hugely to the essence of government authority and to the effectiveness of government policy, and I cannot see that the moving on of civil servants or apologies, however heartfelt, will succeed in doing so.
“Accountability and restoring faith in good government require something more, both to safeguard future public compliance with government instructions when it counts, and to allow the present government to deliver the important legislation it has introduced, including vital changes to social care funding, energy security and online regulation. 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.”
To force a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson, 54 Conservative MPs would have to write to the chair of the party’s 1922 Committee, which represents backbench Tory MPs. Even then a further 126 Tory MPs would have to support them in a vote to see the Prime Minister toppled.
Visit www.jeremywright.org.uk/news/prime-minister-may-2022 to read Mr Wright’s statement in full.