Katy Balls

Lord Geidt reveals what pushed him over the edge

Lord Geidt reveals what pushed him over the edge
Lord Geidt (Credit: Getty images)
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Over twelve hours after Lord Geidt resigned from government, Downing Street has published his resignation letter. In his letter tendering his resignation as the Prime Minister's independent adviser on minister's interests, Geidt raises his concerns over partygate – noting how he 'alluded' to his 'frustration' previously – namely over Johnson's failure to make any public reference to how his conduct related to the ministerial code.

However, he says that despite his misgivings over Johnson's handling of the episode and whether the fixed penalty notice counted as a breach, he had ultimately concluded that 'it was possible to continue credibly as Independent Adviser, albeit by a very small margin'.

Instead, what pushed Geidt over the edge relates to a more recent request to review what would be a 'deliberate and purposeful' breach of the ministerial code:

'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-à-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.'

Geidt doesn't go so far as to say what the dispute is – but in Johnson's reply to the letter he says it was a request for 'advice on potential future decisions related to the Trade Remedies Authority'. There are unconfirmed reports that this related to using tariffs to protect the UK steel industry. If so, it raises two questions. First, why was Geidt consulted on this matter? Second, was this really the dynamite moment that saw Geidt change course and choose to go or simply the final straw that broke the camel's back – offering a way to leave his role away from the politics of matters like wallpapergate and partygate which specifically related to Johnson's personal conduct.

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor.

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