Lord Geidt had previously told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee he was “frustrated” by the behavior that had been exposed during the Partygate scandal
Boris Johnson’s independent ethics adviser has said he has given up his role after being placed in an “impossible and abhorrent position” over the Partygate scandal.
In his letter to the Prime Minister justifying his resignation, Lord Geidt said he was forced to resign when asked to comment on the “Government’s intention to consider measures that constitute an intentional and deliberate risk violating the Ministerial Code”.
The Prime Minister’s response to the sudden resignation, after a year dealing with several potential breaches of the code, suggested it was advice from the Trade Remedies Authority.
What did Lord Geidt say?
In the letter, published on Thursday, Lord Geidt wrote: “This request has placed me in an impossible and despicable position.”
He said the idea that the prime minister “might in any way be in the business of intentionally breaching his own code is an affront”.
The letter added: “A willful breach, or even an intention to do so, would be to suspend the provisions of the Code to serve a political purpose. This would not only mock respect for the Code, but would authorize the suspension of its provisions in governing the conduct of Her Majesty’s Ministers.
“I can’t have any part in that.”
In reply, Mr Johnson said his intention was to seek Lord Geidt’s “advice on the national interest in protecting a critical industry”.
He said the unspecified industry “is protected in other European countries and would suffer material harm if we stopped applying such tariffs”.
The Prime Minister insisted the matter had previously received cross-party support and that the request was in line with domestic law “but could potentially be seen as inconsistent with the UK’s commitments under the World Trade Organisation”.
He said: “When I sought your advice before any decision was made, I wanted to make sure we were acting properly, with due regard to Ministerial Code.”
In an earlier statement released on Wednesday, Lord Geidt regretted his resignation but said he believed it was the right thing to do.
He said: “It is with regret that I see it as right that I resign from my position as Independent Adviser to Ministers’ Interests.”
Speaking at a meeting of a parliamentary select committee on Tuesday, the former independent ethics adviser revealed he had previously considered resigning from his post when it was revealed that Mr Johnson was arrested for attending an illegal gathering on June 19, 2021 with a fine had been imposed.
Lord Geidt said: ‘Resignation is one of the more blunt but few remedies available to the adviser. I’m glad my frustrations were addressed the way they were.”
He also told MPs it was “reasonable” to conclude that the Prime Minister had breached Ministers’ Law after receiving the fine.
It had previously been reported that Lord Geidt had threatened to quit as Mr Johnson’s independent ethics adviser after the infamous Sue Gray report was released revealing the extent of the rule-breaking and behavior during the illegal gatherings.
His resignation marks the second independent ethics adviser to resign under Mr Johnson’s tenure, after Sir Alex Allen resigned in 2020 after the Prime Minister refused to accept his conclusions that Home Secretary Priti Patel had been bullying officials.
What was the reaction to the resignation?
A Government source has revealed that the Prime Minister’s resignation was a “mystery”, adding that he believes Lord Geidt wanted to remain in the role at least until the end of the year.
While Mr Johnson himself has remained silent on the resignation so far, his political opponents have criticized the Prime Minister for “urging his two hand-picked ethics advisers to resign”.
Labout Deputy Chair Angela Rayner said: “The Prime Minister has now urged his two hand-picked ethics advisers to desperately resign. If even they cannot defend his conduct in office, how can anyone believe he is fit to govern?
“The person who should be leaving Number 10 tonight is Boris Johnson himself. How long will the country have to wait for Tory MPs to finally do the right thing?”