PM's ethics adviser Lord Geidt resigns because of 'impossible and odious' position
Boris Johnson's ethics adviser has had enough.
Lord Geidt has resigned, saying he had been put in an "impossible and odious" position when he was tasked with offering a view on a trade issue which he saw as the government’s “intention to consider measures which risk a deliberate and purposeful breach of the ministerial code”.
He also said Partygate had led him to come close to resigning.
Yes, politics is back in its drama era and Downing Street only published the letter earlier this afternoon after substantial pressure.
I appeared before the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in Parliament yesterday. I was glad for the opportunity to give an account of the recent changes to the Ministerial Code, to the Terms of Reference of the Independent Adviser, and to the support for the office of the Independent Adviser.
I was asked at length about my recent Annual Report. I alluded to my frustration, as made clear in my Preface, that you had not made any public reference to your own conduct under the Ministerial Code in the period since inquiries were underway. This would be especially important in the event that the Metropolitan Police found against you, which they did, and/or that Sue Gray’s report included criticism of behaviour within the scope of the Ministerial Code, which it did.
Your letter in response to my Annual Report was welcome. It addressed the absence of comment by you about your obligations under that Ministerial Code up until that point. You explained that, by paying a Fixed Term Penalty, you had not breached the Ministerial Code. The letter did not, however, address specifically the criticism in Sue Gray’s report about your adherence to the Nolan Principles (on leadership, in particular). Neither did the letter make mention that, despite being repeatedly questioned in the House of Commons about your obligations under the Ministerial Code (after paying a Fixed Penalty Notice), your responses again made no reference to it.
I reported to the Select Committee yesterday that I was satisfied that you had responded to my Annual Report to explain your position. I am disappointed, however, that the account you gave was not fuller, as noted above. Moreover, I regret the reference to ‘miscommunication’ between our offices, with the implication that I was somehow responsible for you not being fully aware of my concerns. These inconsistencies and deficiencies notwithstanding, I believed that it was possible to continue credibly as Independent Adviser, albeit by a very small margin.
This week, however, I was tasked to offer a view about the Government’s intention to consider measures which risk a deliberate and purposeful breach of the Ministerial Code. This request has placed me in an impossible and odious position. My informal response on Monday was that you and any other Minister should justify openly your position vis-a-vis the Code in such circumstances. However, the idea that a Prime Minister might to any degree be in the business of deliberately breaching his own Code is an affront. A deliberate breach, or even an intention to do so, would be to suspend the provisions of the Code to suit a political end. This would make a mockery not only of respect for the Code but licence the suspension of its provisions in governing the conduct of Her Majesty’s Ministers. I can have no part in this. Because of my obligation as a witness in Parliament, this is the first opportunity I have had to act on the Government’s intentions. I therefore resign from this appointment with immediate effect.
The Rt Hon Lord Geidt, Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests"
And here is how Johnson responded:
"Dear Lord Geidt,
I was sorry to receive your letter of resignation yesterday. I want to thank you for your service. When we spoke on Monday, you said that you were content to remain until the end of the year. So your letter came as a surprise.
You say that you were put in an impossible position regarding my seeking your advice on potential future decisions related to the Trade Remedies Authority. My intention was to seek your advice on the national interest in protecting a crucial industry, which is protected in other European countries and would suffer material harm if we do not continue to apply such tariffs. This has in the past had cross party support. It would be in line with our domestic law but might be seen to conflict with our obligations under the WTO. In seeking your advice before any decision was taken, I was looking to ensure that we acted properly with due regard to the Ministerial code.
You have carried out your duties admirably under very difficult circumstances. We have discussed the burdens placed on you by this increasingly public role, and the pressures that would be felt by anyone in your position. On behalf of the Government, I would like to renew my thanks for all your work.
Reacting to the resignation, Sir Alex Allan - who resigned from the role in 2020 - said it was "dreadful that an honourable man like Lord Geidt has been placed in a position where he felt he had no option but to resign."
Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said the Conservative Party was "mired in sleaze and totally unable to tackle the cost of living crisis".
Here's what other people had to say:
\u201cI'm genuinely sorry that Lord Geidt has resigned. I had a lot of respect for the way he would wink and say "What are you like?" whenever I broke the Ministerial Code.\u201d
\u201cLord Geidt quits as Boris Johnson\u2019s ethics advisor.\n\u201cWith regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as Independent Adviser on Ministers\u2019 Interests.\u201d\n\nThat\u2019s 2 ethics advisers in a row that resigned\nWhat does that say about the ethics of the one they advise?\u201d
\u201cFor all of the early nineties, Lord Geidt was as a liaison officer with Bosnian-Serbian leaders who were actively\ncommitting the worst war crimes of the late twentieth century, but it is only Boris Johnson who has ever proved to be just too mendacious for him.\u201d
\u201cI cannot imagine how Boris Johnson is going to persuade some to sign up as his next \u201cethics adviser\u201d after Lord Geidt\u2019s resignation. Surely no-one serious would consider taking the job\u2026\nOh\u2026wait a second\u2026\n@RestIsPolitics\u201d
\u201cSeems bizarre that Boris Johnson's ethics advisor resigned over a quibble about trade tariffs and not over vomit, excessive drinking and alleged hooking up on the Downing Street estate during lockdown?\u201d