Conservative vice-chair Afolami quit on live TV
The Solicitor General has become the latest Conservative lawyer to abandon the beleaguered Johnson administration.
Alex Chalk’s resignation letter, released last night, follows similar missives from senior legal-political figures David Wolfson QC and Sir Bob Neill.
Chalk said: “The cumulative effect of the Owen Paterson debacle, Partygate and now the handling of the former Deputy Chief Whip’s resignation, is that public confidence in the ability of Number 10 to uphold the standards of candour expected of a British Government has irretrievably broken down. I regret that I share that judgement”.
Elsewhere, ex-Freshfields and Simpson Thacher man Bim Afolami MP quit as Conservative Party vice-chair live on TV last night (see video below). But Justice Secretary and former Linklaters lawyer Dominic Raab and Attorney General Suella Braverman are staying on.
— The News Desk (@TheNewsDesk) July 5, 2022
Cheltenham MP Chalk thanked Johnson for the opportunity to serve in government, and the “talented civil servants” at the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s office. He said he was “saddened to leave a role which I have enjoyed and, I hope, contributed [to] positively. But the Prime Minister needs a Solicitor General who can defend the culture and course set on his watch. I regret I no longer can”.
With great sadness I am resigning as Solicitor General. I won’t be doing media interviews. pic.twitter.com/8kr9ecRECg
— Alex Chalk (@AlexChalkChelt) July 5, 2022
Chalk had been a criminal barrister at 6KBW, where he handled glamorous cases including fraud, terrorism and gangland murders. The Oxford grad speaks French and Russian, according to a Legal 500 listing, which describes him as “a persuasive and forceful advocate”.
In April, junior justice minister (but very senior barrister) Lord Wolfson quit over Partygate rule-breaking. The commercial silk told Johnson: “The scale, context and nature of those breaches mean that it would be inconsistent with the rule of law for that conduct to pass with constitutional impunity”. He was replaced by Christopher Bellamy, a 76-year-old former judge and magic circle lawyer.
Another senior Tory lawyer, respected Justice Committee chair Bob Neill, twisted the knife a few weeks later. Neill revealed that he had submitted a letter of no confidence in Johnson and later confirmed that he had voted for a change of leader on 6 June.
The south London MP said that Chalk was “a fine lawyer and was a hard-working Solicitor-General”. Tweeting in response to the resignation, Neill added: “He’s saddened to leave, and I’m also sorry to see him go. But he’s an honourable man and has acted honourably”.
Joining Neill in a public no-confidence vote was former Freshfields and Brodies solicitor John Lamont MP, who quit as a parliamentary private secretary to do so.
The top legal brass are staying put. A source close to Justice Secretary and deputy PM Dominic Raab said he remained “loyal” to Johnson, the Press Association reported as news of the resignations landed.
And Attorney General Suella Braverman was also quick to confirm her continued support to Sky News.
UPDATE: 1:03pm — 6 July
Justice minister Victoria Atkins has resigned.