England: PM Johnson’s lockdown fine constitutional crisis, says historian

London – Boris Johnson’s fine for breaching lockdown rules is the “most severe constitutional crisis involving a prime minister”, a historian has said.

History of government expert Lord Hennessy told the BBC Johnson had “broken the law”, “misled Parliament” and “shredded the ministerial code”.

Johnson is the first serving PM to be sanctioned for breaking the law.

Speaking after news of the fine was announced, the PM said people “had the right to expect better” from him.

Johnson has since said it “did not occur” to him at the time that the “brief” gathering in the Cabinet Room to mark his birthday in June 2020 could be in contravention of COVID-19 lockdown rules.

He is known to have attended at least two further events of the 12 being investigated by police, meaning he could be fined again.

One No. 10 aide, who witnessed many of the events under investigation, told the BBC the birthday party was the least serious gathering, in terms of potential rule-breaking, that the PM attended.

 

The prime minister intends to update MPs on the fine after they return from their Easter break on Tuesday.

Opposition parties are investigating ways to hold him to account for what they see as misleading statements to Parliament.

Speaking to Broadcasting House on BBC Radio 4, cross-bench peer Lord Hennessy said: “I think we’re in the most severe constitutional crisis involving a prime minister that I can remember.”

He added when Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined on Tuesday, he wrote in his diary that “Tuesday, 12 April, 2022 will be forever remembered as a dark bleak day for public and political life” and the prime minister had become “the great debaser in modern times of decency in public and political life, and of our constitutional conventions”.

“The prime minister sealed his place in British history as the first lawbreaker to have occupied the premiership,” Lord Hennessy wrote.

He said Johnson had turned his position into “an adventure playground for his narcissistic vanity”.

Lord Hennessy accused the prime minister of having “broken the law, misled Parliament and has in effect shredded the ministerial code” when he “should be the guardian of the code”. (BBC)

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