Boris Johnson Considers Axing Ethics Advisor Role After Lord Geidt Quits
The Prime Minister’s unethical conduct has forced a long list of his appointees to resign. Now he is considering scrapping the role overseeing his conduct, reports Adam Bienkov
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Boris Johnson’s ethics advisor Lord Christopher Geidt is the latest in a long list of people who have felt forced to resign because of the Prime Minister’s unethical or unlawful conduct.
In his resignation letter, Geidt said that Johnson had asked him to approve “a deliberate and purposeful breach of the Ministerial Code”, which placed him in an “impossible and odious position”.
The details of this alleged breach are not clear. Multiple reports suggest that it relates to a potential breach of international trade rules concerning the UK steel industry. A spokesman for Johnson denied that it was connected to the personal interests of the Prime Minister and there is no available evidence to suggest otherwise.
However, it is worth saying that companies and individuals within the steel industry have collectively donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative Party in recent years.
These donors include the steel manufacturers Offshore Group Newcastle Limited, which has donated close to half a million pounds to the party since 2015, and the steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, who donated both to the party and directly to Johnson’s leadership campaign in 2019.
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Geidt’s departure follows that of his predecessor, Sir Alex Allen, who also resigned as Johnson’s ethics advisor in 2020 after the Prime Minister ignored his finding that Home Secretary Priti Patel had broken the Ministerial Code.
Other officials to have quit during Johnson’s premiership have included Lord Richard Keen, who resigned as the Advocate General for Scotland in 2020 because he believed that the Government’s Brexit plans broke international law, and Sir Jonathan Jones who resigned as the Head of the Government Legal Service over the same issue.
Justice Minister David Wolfson also resigned over the ‘Partygate’ scandal, as did Johnson’s anti-corruption tsar John Penrose, who resigned earlier this month.
Such a long list of resignations over the issue of ethical standards may have worried other governments, or other prime ministers, but not this one.
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On the contrary, a spokesman for Johnson today said that they would instead be considering whether to scrap Geidt’s role.
The spokesman said that the functions of the independent advisor on ministerial interests could instead be carried out by other government bodies and departments.
“We have not made a final decision on how best to carry out that function, whether it relates to a specific individual or not,” he said, before adding that the Prime Minister “will carefully consider that before setting out next steps.”
Johnson’s refusal to step down as Prime Minister, despite losing the confidence of more than 40% of his own MPs, suggests that questions of ethical conduct do not much concern his Government.
However, the timing of Geidt’s resignation has benefited the Prime Minister.
Had Geidt’s resignation come before the Conservative Party’s vote of confidence in Johnson last week – as he was reportedly considering – then it is possible that the Prime Minister would have been forced out by his own party.
As it is, he looks set to remain in Downing Street.
This will remain the case up until Conservative MPs finally conclude that they can no longer consent to a man, with the sort of ethical standards that Johnson has so clearly demonstrated, remaining in office.