‘Impossible and odious’ to be Johnson’s ethics adviser

Downing Street Policy & Politics Whitehall

Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser Lord Christopher Geidt has resigned because the prime minister put him in an “impossible and odious position”.

Geidt’s resignation letter states Johnson proposed violating the ministerial code and that he had been on the brink of resigning as the prime minister’s ethic’s adviser over the law-breaking in Downing Street during Partygate.

The former private secretary to the Queen stepped down yesterday (June 16) but his letter to the PM was not released until today. In it, Geidt said his advice had been sought this week on an issue regarding the steel industry that he believed would amount to a deliberate breach of the ministerial code.

“This request has placed me in an impossible and odious position,” wrote Geidt, adding: “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.”

Second ethics adviser to quit in under 2 years

The ministerial code requires ministers to comply with the law. Johnson recently rewrote the code. Geidt is Johnson’s second ethics adviser to quit inside less than two years.

In his letter to the PM, Geidt also noted his disappointment over Johnson’s failure to give a “fuller” account relating to criticism in the Sue Gray report.

Responding to Geidt’s resignation, Johnson wrote that he was “sorry” to receive the letter which “came as a surprise.”

The prime minister claimed his intention over the trade issue around steel regards “protecting a crucial industry” which would “suffer material harm” without the imposition of tariffs to protect it.

Johnson claims such a stance “would be in line with our domestic law but might be seen to conflict with our obligations under the WTO (World Trade Organisation].”

Number 10 has moved to limit to the political damage caused to the prime minister by the resignation of another ethics adviser.

The Financial Times quotes a “Downing Street figure” saying colleagues are sceptical about Geidt’s “excuse for quitting”, with the insider saying: “I think this is a contrived protest for resignation, it seems like a disingenuous reason, I’m presuming he has resigned over something else.”

Geidt’s predecessor, Sir Alex Allan stepped down in November 2020 form the role as Johnson’s ethics adviser after the prime minister failed to publish a critical report about home secretary Priti Patel’s bullying.

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