Lord Geidt quits: Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser resignson June 16, 2022 at 12:37 am

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The resignation comes amid controversy over whether the PM broke the ministerial code.

Lord Geidt

Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser Lord Geidt has resigned after saying there was a “legitimate question” over whether the PM had broken ministerial rules over Partygate.

He said he was leaving the role, which he took up in April last year, “with regret”.

Lord Geidt did not give a reason for his departure, but in a statement he said it was the “right thing” to do.

It comes a day after he spoke of “frustrations” with the PM’s actions.

Following the resignation, a government spokesperson said it was “surprised by this decision, given Lord Geidt’s commitment to the role, to the prime minister”.

“Whilst we are disappointed, we thank Lord Geidt for his public service,” they added.

The spokesperson gave no reason for the resignation but said Lord Geidt had been asked this week “to provide advice on a commercially sensitive matter in the national interest, which has previously had cross-party support. No decision had been taken pending that advice”.

No 10 did not make it clear what these comments referred to.

A Downing Street source told the BBC that Lord Geidt’s resignation had been a “total surprise and a mystery” to the prime minister, adding: “Only on Monday Lord Geidt asked if he could stay on for six months.”

His predecessor as ethics adviser, Sir Alex Allan, resigned in 2020 after the prime minister overruled him over a report into alleged bullying by Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “The prime minister has now driven both of his own handpicked ethics advisers to resign in despair.

“If even they can’t defend his conduct in office, how can anyone believe he is fit to govern?”

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “When both of Boris Johnson’s own ethics advisers have quit, it is obvious that he is the one who needs to go.”

It was reported that Lord Geidt had threatened to quit last month after the publication of the Sue Gray report into lockdown breaches in Downing Street unless Mr Johnson issued a public explanation for his conduct.

Appearing before a committee of MPs on Tuesday, Lord Geidt said: “Resignation is one of the rather blunt but few tools available to the adviser. I am glad that my frustrations were addressed in the way that they were.”

But, in a brief written statement on Wednesday, he said: “With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as independent adviser on ministers’ interests.”

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Analysis box by Vicki Young, deputy political editor

Lord Geidt’s complaints about his role haven’t been made forcefully or angrily but his discomfort has been obvious.

He suggested to MPs that he hadn’t been granted enough power to be truly independent and admitted his advice had been ignored by the prime minister.

This week Downing Street had been celebrating a return to policy debate rather than Partygate, but Lord Geidt has put the spotlight back on Boris Johnson’s behaviour.

The PM’s critics say he’s never believed rules apply to him.

Losing his second adviser on ethics will add to that impression.

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Mr Johnson was fined in April over a surprise birthday party in his honour that he attended in Downing Street in June 2020.

Writing to Lord Geidt afterwards, he said there had been “no intent” to break Covid regulations”, and that he had been “fully accountable to Parliament and the British people”.

The ministerial code, which outlines the rules government ministers must follow, says there is an “overarching duty” on them to comply with the law.

If the code is broken, the convention in Westminster is for a minister to resign.

In his annual report on ministers’ interests, published on 1 June, Lord Geidt said questions around Mr Johnson’s behaviour had led to an “impression… the prime minister may be unwilling to have his own conduct judged against” the ministerial code.

He said that, when it came to the Partygate fine, “a legitimate question has arisen as to whether those facts alone might have constituted a breach of the overarching duty within the ministerial code of complying with the law”.

Following Lord Geidt’s resignation, Tory MP William Wragg, whose Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee questioned the adviser on Tuesday, described him as “a person of great integrity, motivated by the highest ideals of public service”.

Mr Wragg, a critic of Mr Johnson, added: “For the PM to lose one adviser on ministers’ interests may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness.”

Lord Geidt previously served as the Queen’s private secretary and before that he was an Army intelligence officer and diplomat.

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