Duncan Smith warns PM against trying to cling to power if police find wrongdoing

The party’s ex-leader said it will be ‘very tough’ for the PM to hold onto his post if he is fined over partygate.

12 February 2022

Another senior Tory is pressuring Boris Johnson to resign if the Metropolitan Police conclude he broke Covid regulations.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith told the i newspaper the PM would find it “very tough” to hold onto his post if the force fine him.

The ex-Tory leader added: “I think it would be very tough for anyone to remain after that. If you’ve set the laws, and you break them and the police decide you have broken them… and then there’s the unredacted (Sue Gray) report – the two things will come together.”

The Tory MP’s comments were echoed by the Tory chair of the Commons Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill.

He told Times Radio: “The regulations do create an offence for which you get a fixed penalty notice, (but) I think it will be very difficult for anyone to be in the position of the country’s principal lawmaker, and then break a law which they themselves had brought into force, and in particular, very much preached to other people to stick to. You can’t have double standards.”

Sir Iain Duncan Smith in profile while speaking in the House of Commons
Sir Iain Duncan Smith is the latest senior Tory to weigh in on the circumstances facing the Prime Minister (PA)

Sir Iain and Sir Bob’s remarks come after reports emerged earlier this week that Mr Johnson’s allies supposedly said he would refuse to stand down if the police inquiry finds he broke the law.

Elsewhere, other Conservatives were less sympathetic. On Thursday former Tory prime minister Sir John Major launched a furious attack on Mr Johnson, accusing him of breaking lockdown laws and using “brazen excuses”.

In a speech delivered at the Institute of Government, Sir John appeared to suggest Tory MPs should withdraw support for the PM, adding: “At No 10, the Prime Minister and officials broke lockdown laws. Brazen excuses were dreamed up.

“Day after day the public was asked to believe the unbelievable. Ministers were sent out to defend the indefensible – making themselves look gullible or foolish.

“Collectively, this has made the Government look distinctly shifty, which has consequences that go far beyond political unpopularity.”

Sir John Major speech
Former prime minister Sir John Major during his keynote speech at the Institute for Government this week (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The former PM went on: “The lack of trust in the elected portion of our democracy cannot be brushed aside. Parliament has a duty to correct this.

“If it does not, and trust is lost at home, our politics is broken.”

Last month, his fellow former PM Theresa May led a very public attack on Mr Johnson in the House of Commons.

Her speech, delivered in the hours after the heavily censored Gray report was released, said Mr Johnson and his staff did not think Covid rules applied to them.

Ms May added: “What the Gray report does show is that Number 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public, so either my right honourable friend had not read the rules or didn’t understand what they meant and others around him, or they didn’t think the rules applied to Number 10. Which was it?”

Boris Johnson runs his hands through his hair while wearing a mask
Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to deny wrongdoing (Daniel Leal/PA)

Following the delivery of a legal questionnaire from the Met to Downing Street on Friday, Mr Johnson reiterated his denial of wrongdoing.

The PM is alleged to have been at up to six of the 12 events being investigated as part of Operation Hillman.

Downing Street would not say whether the letter was questioning the Prime Minister over one or more events.

The PM is alleged to have been at up to six of the 12 events being investigated as part of Operation Hillman.

Tobias Ellwood, one of the Conservative MPs to have written a letter, told BBC Newsnight: “We need to get this resolved. The nation is looking at this. There’s a massive level of trust to be regained. We need to move forward, this is a mess.”

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