- John Major: Democracy is not something we can take for granted. This government's failures threaten us all
- Sir John Major stated that Boris Johnson violated lockdown laws and appears to believe that rules don't apply to him. He is creating a climate of distrust in politics that could threaten the long-term democratic future for the UK.
Major launched a wide-ranging and fierce attack on Johnson, claiming that Johnson had sent ministers out to defend the indefensible. The truth was considered "optional" and was badly tarnishing Britain's image overseas through populist-style "megaphone diplomacy".
Johnson was also challenged by the ex-Prime Minister of Conservatives, who said that parliament had a "duty" to respond to threats to trust and institutions.
Major made a speech in London condemning Johnson's proposals to limit protest and to criminalize refugees and asylum seekers. Major called the former "punishment with no compassion".
Major linked Johnson directly to Donald Trump by warning that democracy is "not a passing fancy" which can only be sustained through public trust and the upholding of common values.
"Our democracy is fragile; it is not impenetrable fortress. He said that it can collapse if nobody challenges the wrongdoings or fights for the right.
Major stated that Johnson and his team had violated the law by locking down parties in Downing Street. He believed this was the most striking part of his speech. Major also said that the government's response had made it look "distinctly shifty".
Major stated that the prime minister and officials at No 10 broke lockdown laws. "Brazen excuses were made. Every day, the public was challenged to believe the impossible. Ministers were dispatched to defend the undefended - making them look foolish or gullible.
"No government can function properly when its every word are treated with suspicion... It is impossible to ignore the lack of trust in our elected democracy. This is a responsibility of Parliament. Our politics will be ruined if it doesn't.
Johnson spoke during a trip to Poland and declined to comment on Major's comments. Johnson did not mention that Major had claimed to have damaged the UK's reputation globally, but Johnson said the notion was "demonstrably false".
Major was the target of personal attacks by his allies. Major was called "a stale old corporationist" by Zac Goldsmith , while Stuart Anderson , Wolverhampton South West MP, tweeted the name of the former PM along with a yawning emoticon.
Major answered questions following the speech and said that his criticisms extended to Johnson's entourage, asking why no one had told him: "We really don’t do things this manner, you can’t do this."
Major stated that Major did not believe the prime minister had been given the advice, and that he has not yet accepted it. If he doesn't receive that advice from the cabinet secretary or other cabinet members, then it seems reasonable to ask "Why not?"
Major said he wasn't here to make decisions about the fate of anyone, but Major was asked if prime ministers should resign if they had broken the law. Major responded: "That has always happened."
Another striking part of the speech was by Major, who was Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997. He said Johnson seemed to be contemptuous for ministerial standards. This included examples like the PM's rejection of a report on the conduct of Priti Patel, the home secretary, and his failed attempt to spare Owen Paterson from being punished for illegal lobbying.
Major stated that while it may be possible to make excuses for some of these lapses, but not all, they tell a completely different story when taken together. The prime minister and the current government are not only challenging the law but seem to think that they, and they alone, do not need to follow the rules, traditions and conventions of public life - whatever you want.
"The accusation that there is only one law for the government and one for everyone else has been politically fatal, and it has hit home."
Major stated repeatedly that such actions have a long-term, corrosive impact. He also cited the need to be transparent and honest.
He said, "Where governments fail to meet their obligations, candour is the best way to bind up support."
"But that candour should be freely given - not forced under the microscope of inquiries. It can quickly and irreparably damage public trust if it isn't convincing and wholehearted.
"We've seen this play out in the last weeks. "We have seen that play out in recent weeks. Trust in politics has been at a low ebb. It has been eroded by foolish behavior, which leaves a feeling of unease about the way our politics are being conducted. Ministers are often evasive and don't tell the whole truth.
Ministers who respond to legitimate questions using pre-prepared soundbites or half-truths or misdirection or wild exaggeration are causing a lot of disdain for government and politics.
"Ignoring questions leads to disillusionment. Outright lies breed contempt. We are free to speak truth to power in our democracy. However, democracy must be respected if power is to speak truth to the people. They haven't been in the past few years.
Major also criticised the government's "megaphone diplomacy", which he described as populist-style, and lack of honesty.
John Major claims Boris Johnson broke lockdown laws, and is creating mistrust
Johnson is being attacked by a former Tory PM and he makes a clear challenge to MPs to get rid of him