Tory peer David Wolfson quits as justice minister over Boris Johnson's partygate Covid breach

ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana on the morning after the night before as reaction to the PM and Chancellor's fines roll in

A Conservative peer has quit as a minister over Boris Johnson's Covid breach, which has resulted in the prime minister being fined £50 by the Metropolitan Police.

David Wolfson wrote a resignation letter to the prime minister telling him he was quitting not only over the actual lockdown-breaking events or the PM's "own conduct", but also "the official response to what took place".

Lord Wolfson, who had been serving as justice minister, told Mr Johnson that he could not remain a member of the government due to the "scale, context and nature" of Covid-rule-breaking in Downing Street.

Lord Wolfson said he had reached the "inevitable conclusion that there was repeated rule-breaking and breach of the criminal law in Downing Street".

Anushka Asthana explains why the partygate scandal is far from over for the government

In a letter to the PM, the Conservative peer said: "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."

The resignation comes after Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak paid fines relating to a birthday party held for the PM in the Cabinet room in No 10 in June 2020.

However, neither politician indicated they would consider resigning over the finding by the Metropolitan Police, instead saying they wanted to get on with the job.

Lord Wolfson's resignation heaped pressure on Dominic Raab, whose Labour shadow Steve Reed pointed out as justice secretary is “constitutionally charged with upholding the law but is instead condoning law-breaking” by backing Mr Johnson.

Mr Raab described Lord Wolfson as a “world-class lawyer” whose “wisdom and intellect will be sorely missed” in government.

Mr Johnson wrote to the peer saying he was “sorry to receive” the resignation, while praising his “years of legal experience”.

Earlier on Wednesday, Tory MP Nigel Mills – thought to be the first Tory backbencher to call for Mr Johnson to fall on his sword since the fines landed – said the PM's positions is "just not tenable".

"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," the MP for Amber Valley in Derbyshire said.

Mr Mills said people have a "right to expect higher standards of people making these laws... so the idea that he can survive having broken one and accepted he's broken (it), I just think is impossible".

Tory MP Craig Whittaker on Wednesday night also called for the PM and chancellor to quit.

According to the Halifax Courier, the Calder Valley MP said during a Facebook Q and A: "I not only think that the Prime Minister should resign but I also think that Rishi Sunak should resign as well."

"My expectation is that he and the Chancellor should do the right thing and resign."

The MP reportedly said he will not be submitting a letter to the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, saying he expects the PM would win the vote which would detract from the government’s “day-to-day” business.

Both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak – and Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie, who was also fined – apologised on Tuesday and confirmed they had paid the fines imposed by the Metropolitan Police.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps sought to defend the PM on Wednesday morning, saying he is “human” and did not knowingly break the law.

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 organised a surprise.

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

What you need to know - Listen to the latest episode

Other Tory MPs and Cabinet ministers have also shown their support for the Prime Minister, praising his leadership during Covid and Brexit and pointing to the war in Ukraine.

A Home Office source said Mr Johnson has Home Secretary Priti Patel’s “full support” and that it was difficult for Home Office ministers to comment on ongoing police investigations.

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.