Prime Minister Boris Johnson has led Britain into a constitutional crisis by breaching the law he set out for pandemic restrictions, “destroying the ministerial code”, the country’s top constitutional expert said on Sunday.
Peter Hennessy, a historian and member of the upper house of parliament, said Johnson had become “the great degrader in modern times of decency in public and political life” after he was fined by police for attending a social gathering. in Downing Street while lockdown restrictions were in place.
The ministerial code sets out the standards of conduct expected of ministers and how they carry out their duties, according to the government’s website.
Johnson has been accused of misleading parliament on the matter by opposition lawmakers after he told parliament last year that all the rules were followed at Downing Street during the pandemic. He will appear in the House of Commons on Tuesday to explain why he was fined by the police.
He also apologized after becoming the first British leader to break the law while in office. Police are investigating more gatherings and could be fined more.
“I think we are in the most severe constitutional crisis I can remember involving a prime minister,” Hennessy told BBC Radio, asking why anyone in public life would adhere to the rules when the prime minister did not.
“The prime minister sealed his place in British history as the first lawbreaker to serve as prime minister,” he said, adding that he was no longer worthy to serve the queen or his country.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a minister in Johnson’s cabinet, said he respected Hennessy but did not believe the constitutional expert had fully understood the constitutional meaning of the cabinet code.
Johnson, he said, had told parliament in good faith that he had not broken any rules because he did not believe he had.
“It is very difficult to see that it could reach the high level of deliberately misleading parliament,” Rees-Mogg told the BBC. “So I think Lord Hennessy, who is one of the most distinguished living constitutionalists, is wrong on this occasion.”
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