Boris Johnson ‘broke lockdown laws’, says John Major

Former prime minister John Major has slammed current prime minister Boris Johnson over his conduct and has said he "broke lockdown laws" in a bruising speech.

In a speech to the Institute for Government think tank in London, Major - who was in office from 1990 to 1997 - explained why "lies" in parliament are wrong, before calling the government's excuses for Partygate "brazen" that made ministers defending them look "gullible or foolish".

He said: "There has been cynicism about politics from the dawn of time. We're told that politicians are all the same and this untruth conditions electors to condone lies as though they were the accepted currency of politics.

"But politicians are not all the same and lies are just not acceptable. To imply otherwise it to cheapen public life and slander the vast majority of elected politicians who do not knowingly mislead.

"But some do mislead and their behaviour is corrosive. It tarnishes both politics and the reputation of parliament. It is a dangerous trend. If lies become commonplace, truth ceases to exist. What and who then, can we believe? The risk is nothing and noone, and where are we then?"

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He continued: "Parliament's an echo chamber. Lies can become accepted as fact which as the speaker has pointed out, has consequences for policy and for reputation. That is why deliberate lies to parliament have been fatal to political careers and must always be so.

"If trust in the word of our leaders in parliament is lost, then trust in government will be lost also."

This was the moment Major attacked Johnson more directly over the Partygate scandal. The Metropolitan Police are currently investigating 12 events said to have taken place in Downing Street while the public obeyed strict lockdown rules, after Sue Gray's interim report found a great deal of shoddy behaviour in Number 10.

Major said this has made the government appear "shifty":

"At No10, 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 as they did so. Collectively this has made the government look distinctly shifty which has consequences which go far beyond political unpopularity.

“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.”


Major received praise for his intervention and it attracted the attention of a number of MPs and journalists:

Elsewhere in the speech, Major warned the UK’s reputation abroad is being “shredded” because of the government’s “conduct” – saying: “We are weakening our influence in the world.”

He also added: "The prime minister and our present government not only challenge the law, but also seem to believe that they, and they alone, need not obey the rules, traditions, conventions - call them what you will - of public life.

"The charge that there is one law for the government, and one for everyone else is politically deadly - and it has struck home."

With speeches like this it looks like Johnson is becoming more and more unpopular by the day.

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