Katy Balls

Geidt of the long knives: what the PM’s ethics adviser’s resignation means

Geidt of the long knives: what the PM's ethics adviser's resignation means
Text settings

Boris Johnson has lost his second ethics advisor since entering No. 10. This evening Lord Geidt announced his resignation as the Prime Ministers's independent adviser on ministers' interests:

'With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests.'

There have been rumours for some time that Geidt – who previously served as the Queen's private secretary – could be on the brink of resigning. He was brought in last April to replace Sir Alex Allan, who quit the role in late 2020 after Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, stayed in post despite being found to have broken official guidance on ministerial behaviour.

There have been signs in the past few months to suggest Geidt was frustrated at the government's handling of several issues. He cleared the Prime Minister of serious wrongdoing on wallpaper-gate – how Johnson funded the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat. Yet he was then left red-faced when it emerged that Johnson had failed to share relevant WhatsApp messages.

More recently, Geidt raised concerns over the fact Johnson did not refer himself over the fixed penalty notice he received over partygate. Geidt said there was a 'legitimate question' over whether the it meant the PM broke the ministerial code. He also said that the proposed government reforms to the standards regime suggested 'a low level of ambition'. He hoped that the independent adviser would be granted powers to initiate inquiries into ministerial conduct.

Where does this all leave Boris Johnson? It's clearly not good news, yet the timing could have been worse. The confidence vote in his leadership has already happened and another is not expected for some time. However, Johnson now faces the unenvious task of having to find a third ethics adviser – and this one will likely be the hardest recruitment of all. Geidt's resignation will also add to the fears of those Tory MPs worried that Johnson's conduct is becoming harder and harder to defend.