'Untenable' for PM to have broken his own laws says Tory MP after calling for Boris to go

19 April 2022, 19:43 | Updated: 19 April 2022, 21:08

Mark Harper has called on Boris Johnson to leave office
Mark Harper has called on Boris Johnson to leave office. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Will Taylor

Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper has told LBC he believes it is "untenable" for a Prime Minister to break his own laws, after calling for him to resign.

The MP, who worked as an enforcer for the Government under David Cameron in the House of Commons, said he no longer thinks Boris Johnson is "worthy of the great office that he holds".

Mr Harper told Iain Dale that he submitted his letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson to the chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee after Mr Johnson was fined for breaking a Covid rule by the Met.

"The problem here is… I have been in the House of Commons on many occasions when the Prime Minister and other senior ministers told the House of Commons and the public these laws were essential, had to be followed in every detail, and if you didn't follow them in every detail you were putting people's lives at risk," he explained.

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"Now, I didn't always agree with the Government and I voted against some of the laws, but once the House of Commons had passed them, even if I fundamentally disagreed with them I obeyed them because they were the law.

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"And I actually found it rather offensive, frankly, that the people who've been telling me for two years that they were essential to follow them hadn't followed them themselves, and had created a culture in Downing Street where we know there were at least 50 criminal offences had been committed, and I suspect we will find there have been many more at the end of this process."

He said Mr Johnson had effectively accepted he broke his own laws by paying the Met's fine, and "I just don’t think that is a tenable proposition for the Prime Minister".

His comments to LBC followed his remarks in the House of Commons, after Mr Johnson apologised to MPs.

"I strongly support the Government's actions in standing up to Putin's aggression and helping Ukraine defend itself and our values and it's exactly at times like this that our country needs a Prime Minister who exemplifies those values," he had said.

"I regret to say that we have a Prime Minister who broke the laws that he told the country they had to follow, hasn't been straightforward about it and is now going to ask the decent men and women on these benches to defend what I think is indefensible.

"I'm very sorry to have to say this, but I no longer think he is worthy of the great office that he holds."

Mr Johnson said: "I must say to [him], I know the care and the sincerity with which he weighs his words and I bitterly regret what has happened.

"I bitterly regret the event in Downing Street as I have said, but I do believe that it is the job of this Government to get on with the priorities of the British people and that is what we're going to do."

During Tonight with Andrew Marr on LBC, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit opportunities minister, derided Mr Harper's call for Mr Johnson to go in the Commons.

Mr Rees-Mogg said: "Mark has been gearing up for that for some time… you just have to watch his Commons performances.

"It was quite funny when he said how much it pained him when he was clearly enjoying the moment thoroughly."

Mr Harper hit back: "No, I found it excruciating… I don't know whether he actually believes it or whether it’s the line they've all been given to do.

"I'm fully expecting there will be unpleasant briefings about me in tomorrow's papers."