Boris Johnson says he won't resign after police issue fine
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The Downing Street party allegations have been threatening Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s position since coming to light in December 2021 when public trust plunged. But with the recent fines officially confirming his presence at the illegal events, further calls have been made for Mr Johnson to hand in his resignation.
A number of lawmakers in the Conservative Party called for Mr Johnson to step down earlier in the year, but attention was diverted by the emergence of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
However, many lawmakers said they would reserve judgement until the outcome of the police investigation.
Today, according to a statement published by No 10, Scotland Yard has confirmed Mr Johnson had been fined because “on June 19, 2020, at the Cabinet Room … between 2pm and 3pm” he had been part of “a gathering of two or more people indoors”, which was banned at the time.
Mr Johnson has issued a “full apology” for the lockdown-busting event, saying it “did not occur” to him that the gathering was a violation of Covid restriction rules.
He said: “I have to say in all frankness at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules.”
He added: “I now humbly accept that I was.
“But I think the best thing I can do now is, having settled the fine, is focus on the job at hand. That’s what I’m going to do.”
The police are investigating up to 12 gatherings held at Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, meaning there is a potential the Prime Minister may receive even more fixed penalties.
So far, despite the calls to do so, Mr Johnson has not alluded to any plans of resignation. But with the current outrage exploding amongst members of the public as well as political parties from each end of the spectrum – including the Tories, can he be ousted instead?
A vote of no confidence
Mr Johnson can not be automatically removed from his position, although he can be voted out by members of his party.
This takes the form of a “vote of no confidence”, and would be triggered by 15 percent of the party submitting letters to the 1922 Committee Chairman outlining their confidence vote.
The Conservative Party consists of 360 MPs, meaning 54 MPs would need to write these letters for a confidence vote to be called.
The letters are compiled in a secret ballot, which gives the members of parliament the chance to either support or oppose the leader.
If Mr Johnson wins, he would remain in office and would not be challenged again for 12 months.
If he loses, which means more than 50 percent would have voted to remove him, he would have to resign and would be barred from standing in the leadership election that follows.
In this instance, a leadership contest would be held to decide his replacement – a national election would not automatically be triggered.
This contest would take place between the party currently serving and the replacement would become the prime minister.
Only the Conservative party can remove Mr Johnson in this way.
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Mr Johnson could resign
Despite Mr Johnson showing no signs of resigning of his own accord, he could be forced into doing so if he is found to have breached Ministerial Code by misleading parliament.
The Ministerial Code is a document setting out “rules” and standards for Government ministers in the United Kingdom.
Mr Johnson told MPs in the House of Common that he had been “repeatedly assured” no Covid rules were broken.
So if it is decided this statement was misleading, he would have to resign in accordance with Ministerial Code.
A general election
The only other way the Prime Minister could be ousted from his position is through a general election.
The next UK general election is due to take place on May 2, 2024.
Despite plunging public confidence in the Tory party because of Mr Johnson, and up to 50 additional members of the party including Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, being issued fines for breaking Covid rules, a general election would not be triggered.
The Prime Minister would simply be replaced by another member of the Conservative Party following the vote of no confidence.
Could the Queen sack Mr Johnson?
While possible in constitutional theory, it would be an exceptional constitutional act in modern times and highly unlikely to take place.
The Queen would be able to dismiss Boris Johnson if he lost a vote of no confidence and refused to resign.
But, according to government and constitution professor at UCL Robert Hazel, she would only do so if “the House of Commons indicated clearly who should be appointed as prime minister in his place.”
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, there is a 14-day window after a vote of no confidence during which to find an alternative that secures the confidence of the Commons.
In those 14 days, parliament would try to agree on a single candidate to put forward to the Queen.
The Queen would then be able to dismiss Mr Johnson if he was not willing to resign and would appoint the new person as Prime Minister.
However, this is very unlikely to take place, as Mr Johnson would be more obliged to dismiss himself before the Queen could do so.
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