Lord Christopher Geidt resignation: Boris Johnson’s independent ethics adviser quits in wake of Partygate
Boris Johnson’s ethics chief has resigned a day after telling MPs it was “reasonable” to suggest the Prime Minister broke the ministerial code by breaching lockdown laws.
Lord Geidt became the second ministerial interests adviser to resign during the Prime Minister’s three years in office when a brief statement was published by the Government on Wednesday evening.
“With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as independent adviser on ministers’ interests,” it read.
No reason was given for his shock departure and a senior source in No 10 said Mr Johnson was “surprised” by Lord Geidt’s resignation, adding: “This is a mystery to the PM.”
Labour renewed its calls for Mr Johnson to resign, accusing him of having “driven both of his own hand-picked ethics advisers to resign in despair”.
A little over 24 hours earlier, the crossbench peer declined to deny that he had previously considered quitting over Mr Johnson’s response to being fined by police over partygate.
Lord Geidt told the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee that he had felt “frustration” and that the option of resignation was always “on the agenda”.
“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,” he said.
It was reported that Lord Geidt had threatened to quit last month after the publication of the Sue Gray report into lockdown breaches in Whitehall unless Mr Johnson issued a public explanation for his conduct.
In response, the Prime Minister issued a letter to Lord Geidt saying he believed any breach of Covid laws when he attended a gathering in the Cabinet room for his 56th birthday had been “unwitting”.
He insisted he was acting in “good faith” when he told Parliament there had not been any parties.
On Tuesday, Lord Geidt, a former private secretary to the Queen, accepted it was “reasonable” to suggest the Prime Minister may have breached the ministerial code by being handed a fixed-penalty notice by the Metropolitan Police.
However, he indicated he would not be launching an investigation into Mr Johnson even though he has since gained greater powers to initiate his own inquiries.
He described himself as an “asset of the Prime Minister as a minister of the Crown” rather than a “free-orbiting adviser”, and still required Mr Johnson’s final consent before starting an investigation.
The first of Mr Johnson’s ethics advisers to quit was Sir Alex Allan, who resigned in 2020 after the Prime Minister refused to accept his finding that Home Secretary Priti Patel had bullied civil servants.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “The Prime Minister has now driven both of his own hand-picked 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?
The No 10 source suggested Lord Geidt had indicated he would like to stay in the role until the end of the year at least.
“We are surprised, this is a mystery to the PM. Only on Monday he said he would like to stay on for another six months,” the source said.
The SNP's Westminster Depute Leader, Kirsten Oswald MP, said: "This is now the second ethics advisor to resign under Boris Johnson's leadership which tells you everything you need to know.
"Lord Geidt's resignation completely undermines the credibility of the system which keeps Ministers in line, which demonstrates just how rotten the Westminster system has become and why Scotland needs independence.
"This law-breaking Prime Minister should have been removed from office long ago, but this should really signal the end of his premiership.
"It is time for Tory MPs do to the right thing and finally show Boris Johnson the door."
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