‘Those of us who set the rules have a particular responsibility to stick to them ourselves’, says former criminal barrister Sir Bob Neill
The chair of the Justice Select Committee Sir Bob Neill has become the latest Conservative MP to submit a letter of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s leadership.
In a statement on Friday, the former criminal barrister said: “Since the start of this episode, I have been very clear that I would wait for the conclusion of any police investigation and the publication of Sue Gray’s full report before making a judgement. My years as a lawyer have taught me not to come to conclusions without the fullest possible evidence. I have been equally clear that we cannot have one rule for those working in government and a different one for everyone else. Those of us who set the rules have a particular responsibility to stick to them ourselves.”
Continuing, the MP for Bromley and Chislehurst said the report, published last week, had “highlighted a pattern of wholly unacceptable behaviour, spread over a number of months, by some working in 10 Downing Street, including breaking rules that caused real pain and hardship for many, and which the Government, and we as parliamentarians, were telling others to live by”.
— Sir Bob Neill MP (@neill_bob) May 27, 2022
“I have listened carefully to the explanations the Prime Minister has given, in Parliament and elsewhere, and, regrettably, do not find his assertions to be credible”, Neill said.
It’s unclear exactly how many letters of no confidence have been submitted — only Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, knows the exact figure — however BBC News says it “is aware of at least 20”. It takes 54 letters to trigger a leadership challenge against Johnson.
Neill’s letter went down well with lawyers on social media, with anonymous criminal law specialist The Secret Barrister thanking the MP for his “principled stance”. Meanwhile, barrister and former Conservative MP Jerry Hayes tweeted: “You are a legend Bob. A really, really brave thing to do particularly as you supported him for the leadership.”
Others were equally supportive.
Integrity matters. This was an important statement, Bob. Thank you.
— Schona Jolly QC (@WomaninHavana) May 27, 2022
Thank you for as always taking a principled stance
— PJ Kirby QC (@kirby_pj) May 27, 2022
Thanks Bob. You know this is a much bigger issue than party politics. It’s about integrity and honesty in government. I hope others will follow.
— Gerard McDermott QC (@McDermottQC) May 27, 2022
The move comes a little over a month after Legal Cheek reported that Lord Wolfson had quit his role as justice minister over what he described as the “scale, context and nature” of breaches of Covid regulations in Downing Street. Wolfson, a commercial silk, has since returned to practice at One Essex Court.