Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has launched a thinly veiled attack on Boris Johnson’s top adviser Dominic Cummings, telling him “my word is the law”.
Speaking at a drinks reception for liberal-minded Conservative members at the Tory party conference on Sunday evening, Buckland hit out at “unaccountable” people in No.10 Downing Street.
Cummings, the prime minister’s chief of staff, is seen as the mastermind behind Johnson’s strategy to ensure the UK leaves the EU on October 31.
There is speculation that the prime minister will somehow try and bypass the Benn Act, which requires in law that he ask the EU to extend Article 50 if no exit deal has been agreed by October 19.
In the wake of the supreme court decision that ruled Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament was unlawful, Buckland defended the judges.
“I am in good heart. It’s been quit a few weeks as a member of cabinet. But I can tell you as well, our judiciary is in good heart too,” he said.
“Whatever one thinks about the merits of decisions that are made, one iron rule has to apply, we have an independent judiciary, we have respect for the rule of law.
“That is what your Lord Chancellor will do time and time again without worrying about the politics of it. Without worrying about what No.10 might say.
Buckland added: “My word is the law, not some unaccountable person who might be saying something off record.
“What I say and what the prime minister says matters far more than anything else.”
The justice secretary was speaking at an event hosted by the Tory Reform Group. Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general who was thrown out of the Tory party for voting to block a no-deal Brexit, was in the audience. The members also heard from Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan.
Speaking about the upcoming general election, which is expected to take place in weeks not months, warned the party there were “many times we have thought we were in charge and in control” only to have “squandered it all and thrown it away”.
“If we do not get more bums on those seats in the House of Commons then we will be in minority, we will be in opposition for a very long time indeed,” he said.
Buckland told the One Nation Tory activists and MPs he had been a party member for 35 years. “I am not going anywhere. And neither should you. This is our party. And we will make it so in the future,” he said.