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Boris Johnson’s Ethics Adviser Quits After Suggesting UK PM Broke Code

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- The spotlight is back on Boris Johnson’s conduct during the Partygate scandal following the resignation of his ethics adviser, Christopher Geidt, just a day after suggesting in Parliament that the prime minister had breached the ministerial code.

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“With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as independent adviser on ministers’ interests,” Geidt said Wednesday in a statement on the UK government website.

His resignation comes as a surprise and mystery to Johnson and his team, according to a government official. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News on Thursday that Johnson’s office will provide an update on Geidt’s resignation later in the day, suggesting the ethics adviser’s departure may have been to do with a “commercially sensitive matter in the national interest” which he had been asked to look at.

Geidt’s resignation frustrates Johnson’s ability to move on from the saga that saw him become the first sitting prime minister found to have broken the law. Police fined him for attending a gathering for his birthday in Downing Street in June 2020, in breach of the Covid lockdown rules his own government brought in. Last week, Johnson vowed to “bash on” with his agenda after narrowly winning a vote on his leadership, in which 41% of Tory MPs opposed him.

Geidt told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday it’s “reasonable” to say Johnson may have breached the ministerial code by taking part in a rule-breaking gathering in Downing Street during the Covid-19 pandemic that led to the premier being fined by police. He also said he had felt “frustration” and that the option of resignation was always “on the agenda,” though he said there wasn’t a point when he formed “a single direct proposition” in his mind.

Johnson Adviser Suggests UK Premier Broke Ministerial Rules

Last week, Tory MP John Penrose, who led Johnson’s anti-corruption agenda, also resigned his position, telling Sky News “it’s pretty clear” the premier had broken the country’s ministerial code “in a very material way.”

Ministers “are always going to be guided by the rules and the principles in that code,” Attorney General Suella Braverman told ITV on Wednesday.

“The ministerial code is very clear in that the sole jurisdiction over it is commanded by the Prime Minister himself, and that’s why, that’s how, we ensure there’s good administration, good governance,” she said.

Johnson’s being investigated by the House of Commons Committee of Privileges to determine whether he committed a contempt of parliament by misleading the chamber when answering questions about Partygate. Breaking the ministerial code or intentionally misleading Parliament are usually regarded as resigning offenses, though there is no compulsion to quit.

(Updates with Raab in third paragraph.)

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