Readers' Letters: UK could cope with Johnson stepping down

What is the main barrier to the removal of prime minister Boris Johnson from office in the aftermath of his fixed penalty notice and fine?

Councillor John McLellan and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross focus on the exigencies of the war in Ukraine as a case for not destabilising the government (your report, 13 April). To this might be added the length of time required for all paid-up Tory party members to have a say on his successor, and the hesitancy of his parliamentary party at a time of local elections throughout the UK.

Prime Ministers in wartime have been removed in the past with comparative ease. Asquith was forced to resign in late 1916 due to Unionist dissatisfaction with his performance and a preference for Lloyd George to lead a coalition; Chamberlain lost the support of a large part of his parliamentary party after a military debacle in Norway in 1940 and was replaced within days by Churchill. The latter had to resign in July 1945 after a general election defeat during the ongoing conflict in Japan. Thatcher went in 1990 as Allied forces assembled in the Middle East as a prelude to the removal of Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait.

It would certainly make little difference to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine if Mr Johnson was to step down after the May poll and be replaced on an interim basis by Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab. Some have dismissed Partygate as a trivial matter, a little local difficulty. It certainly wasn't that for many who put up with inconvenience and heartache during the worst episodes of the pandemic. The machinery of government will grind on if Mr Johnson goes; it has survived resignations that took place during much more turbulent times in history. His departure will be a relatively small price to pay for restoration of faith in the way public affairs are managed.

Demonstrators outside the entrance to 10 Downing Street yesterday (Photo by Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

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Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

Time to go

How long will Conservative MPs hold onto their lame duck leaders? The constant drip, drip of more fines for Downing Street parties will keep the smell of corruption on a government that can't be trusted with the most essential quality for governing-truthfulness.

Of course the Conservatives will continue with the Ukraine excuse as long as they can while they wait to see if there is any Falklands-type boost in popularity. But there are three reasons that won't really enhance the Conservatives' reputation. Firstly, the next month is crucial for Ukraine. After they bear the brunt of the coming massive Russian attack, the question about how much more help we should give them may become less crucial. Either Russia will have gained ascendancy or Ukraine will have held them back.

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For this reason the Conservatives should consider matters closer to home. How can this lame duck government, which depends upon the goodwill of all its MPs – even the more extreme ideological ones – be free enough to take decisive measures to deal with the cost of living, spiralling inflation and the resultant damage to the economy? This is the second reason the issue of Partygate won't go away. The Chancellor has already shown indecisiveness and lack of good judgement. But for Partygate, reshuffling would see him go. But Boris Johnston is suddenly holding onto every ally, no matter how poor.

A final reason this won't go away for the Conservatives is that it raises questions about their integrity. A party which had lost its integrity is an un-British party. The issue of integrity is simple. This government's chief ministers lied to Parliament. They have to go.

Andrew Vass, Edinburgh

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Glass houses

Naturally the First Minister and her acolytes jump all over Boris Johnson, who has been fined for breaking lockdown rules over what seems to be a very minor “offence” of enjoying a brief (allegedly ten minutes) drink with colleagues in Downing Street (his place of work) on his birthday. An event that I would guess he had little knowledge of until it happened.

The predictable howls of anguish from the SNP calling for his resignation is unsurprising. However might I just remind those in the SNP to look inwards a little to the past performance of their beloved First Minister. She states with regard to Boris Johnson that “The basic values of integrity and decency – essential to the proper working of any Parliamentary democracy – demand that he go”.

However Ms Sturgeon’s platitudes seem not to apply at home. It is only a short while ago that the Holyrood Parliamentary Committee investigating the mishandling of allegations against Alex Salmond found that “Her [The First Minister] written evidence is therefore an inaccurate account of what happened and she has misled the committee on this matter”.

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Might I also suggest to this incompetent First Minister that she reflects on her demands and looks to apply them to herself. People in glass houses…

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

Do right thing

I am at a loss to understand why, in the view of the Tory Party, Boris Johnson cannot resign because of the current appalling situation in Ukraine. We are told now is not the time. Surely it is exactly at this perilous time that the UK should demonstrate to Putin we will not tolerate politicians who mislead their citizens. We can also demonstrate to the Ukrainian people the strength of a mature democracy which requires its leaders to obey the rule of law and to be held to the highest levels of integrity. Are the Conservatives really telling us that Boris Johnson is the only person in Westminster who can lead them? I am sure there are law abiding and principled politicians within the Tory party who are capable of leadership. I would urge them to come forward now and give this country a government that at the very least we can be less ashamed of.

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Colin Craig, Inverness

Slice of life

It just about encapsulates how far this nation's masters are allergic to reality that our Prime Minister and the Chancellor eating cake in front of too many people two years ago has been treated for months like it were the Cuban Missile crisis, whilst our crumbling national infrastructure (especially transport, health and education) is a mere periphery trifle. They fixate on frippery whilst neglecting the necessities.They should remember when Marie Antoinette became fixated with cake, she soon got her just desserts.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

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Clear Keir

At long last, Keir Starmer is showing signs of courage and dignity. He has rejected out of hand any prospect of Labour working in a coalition with the SNP either at local or national levels. There is at last a clear water divide and certainty and clarity in Labour’s approach. Semi-detached nationalists need not linger.

Any Labour voter or representative who feels some irresistible urge towards breaking up the UK can now go the whole hog and vote or stand for the party obsessed with just that. Good luck with that. Nationalism is the very antithesis of any form of socialism.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

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Logic deficit

E Campbell confuses Scotland's fiscal deficit with its budget (Letters, 12 April). The deficit is the difference between what is raised in taxes and what the Government spends. Official statistics (ONS) show that the most recent figures (2020-21) are: £63 billion raised in taxes and £99bn of Scottish Government spending, which makes a deficit of £36 billion for that year. The deficit is even higher than usual because of extra monies given by the UK Parliament to deal with the Covid crisis.

The budget is a different matter because it sets its limit far above what is raised in taxes. It takes for granted the extra money coming to Scotland via the Barnett formula and Covid emergency funding. The Scottish Government is not forced to keep its budget within the £63bn which it has raised in taxes. Instead, it is allowed to spend far in excess of that and it has done so, hence the £99bn expenditure. However, to claim, as E Campbell does, that keeping within that budget limit is the same as a zero deficit, is quite frankly, nonsense.

The deficit is important because it represents the economic setback which Scotland would suffer immediately were it ever to cut itself off from the UK. The SNP Government could make a start on weaning us off the deficit by drastically reducing its expenditure now, in advance of independence. That would be the honest and responsible thing to do. However, the SNP strategy is the exact opposite, spending as much as they can on fat-cat salaries in a host of quangos, giving freebies to bribe voters and setting up pretend embassies around the world. Their strategy of bluff, bluster and bribe seems to be working as their share of the vote has risen, but the economic crash of independence will be all the worse as a result.

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Les Reid, Edinburgh

Agree to disagree

At this week's Scottish Greens manifesto launch, co-leader Lorna Slater said her party “believe in consensus, negotiations and grown-up politics”. She added that “we've shown in Holyrood that working with other parties can lead to good government”. Why, then, did she immediately go on to rule out working with the Scottish Conservatives in any capacity? This seems like a very childish approach and the opposite of what she claims to seek.

Ms Slater is essentially saying she believes in building consensus and negotiation unless she disagrees with you. Quite a bizarre starting point. Her role as a Scottish Government Minister and the increased profile that brings is certainly shining a light on Ms Slater's contradictory and divisive views. She may want to look "consensus" up in the dictionary and take it from there.

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J Lewis, Edinburgh

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