The Prime Minister was right to apologise for what happened at Downing Street on 20th May 2020 and he should have done so sooner and with less qualification. The anger at apparent double standards in Downing Street compared to those followed by my constituents and millions of others, often at very great personal cost, is real and justified. I share the widespread disappointment in the way the Prime Minister has handled this matter. As I said in relation to the behaviour of Dominic Cummings over the so-called Barnard Castle incident, the actions of those in Government have even greater significance when those people are asking others to accept substantial restrictions on their freedom, and can be not just hypocritical but also undermine the effectiveness of vital Government policies.
This is therefore a very serious situation and questions about the Prime Minister’s ability to stay in office are legitimate. Among the understandably high emotions, I think my constituents are entitled to expect me to respond in a considered way. I think it is no secret that I did not support the Prime Minister’s candidacy for the leadership of my party but he was elected to that position and subsequently won a substantial majority in the General Election of 2019. His premiership since then has been dominated by the Covid pandemic and I think it would be fair to say that no Government would have got everything right in their response to it. His has not, but there has also been considerable success, in particular in purchasing vaccines (a considerable risk at the time) and in the highly effective rollout of those vaccines which have made a huge difference to the level of damage the virus has done. If the Prime Minister deserves blame for the failings of his Government he is also entitled to credit for its successes.
If the Prime Minister were to leave office now, his successor would not arrive the next day. There would need to be a time-consuming leadership contest in the Conservative Party, no doubt involving candidates who are members of a Government the public has a right to expect will be focussed on responding to the pandemic at the moment.
Balanced against all of this are valid concerns about leadership and character, which may be further illuminated by the report into events at Downing Street by Sue Gray, which we expect to see soon. I will, as I always try to do, make the best judgment I can based on the evidence available and the views expressed to me.
13 January 2022 – Jeremy Wright QC, Conservative MP since 2005, former Minister of State for Prisons, former Attorney General for England and Wales and Advocate General for Northern Ireland, former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport