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By Ben Guerin
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Boris Johnson’s Ethics Chief Doesn’t Deny He Threatened To Quit Over Partygate


3 min read

Lord Geidt, the Prime Minister's independent adviser on ministerial standards, has not denied reports he threatened to resign over the partygate scandal.

He told MPs on the public administration and constitutional affairs committee (PACAC) that journalists had identified his “frustration” over the PM’s saga, but insisted that resignations were a “rather blunt” tool that he was reluctant to use.

“I'm very aware that a very great deal of commentary was swirling around at the time of my annual report on the 31st May,” he said on Tuesday.

“And this is not to say anything other than I haven't gone into in print, but I hope to be very clear in my annual report and my preface that I have about what — indeed what the commentariat spotted — was perhaps I think a frustration on my part.”

He added that he was “glad” that the Prime Minister had responded to the concerns he raised, especially areas about which he was “clearly frustrated”.

Asked directly if he had considered resigning, he said: "I haven’t given you a direct answer but I don’t think there was ever a single direct proposition in my own mind.”

Lord Geidt wrote to the Prime Minister in May claiming there were “legitimate questions” over whether Johnson receiving a fine meant he had breached the ministerial code, and accusing him of not promptly responding to a request for an explanation.

Responding to the correspondence, Johnson blamed a breakdown in communication and insisted that he did not believe the ministerial code had been broken.

The Times had reported following the exchange that Lord Geidt was “60/40” in favour of quitting his role.

In his evidence, Lord Geidt also hinted that he would likely have launched his own inquiry into reports of lockdown-breaching parties if he had been given the power to do so at the time.

It comes after a recent update to the ministerial code, published last month, strengthened the powers of Lord Geidt’s role by allowing his office to initiate an inquiry without getting permission first.

 “It’s reasonable to say that, perhaps a fixed penalty notice and the prime minister paying it, may have constituted not meeting the overarching duty under the ministerial code of complying with the law.”

“I’m glad to get the new power and I’m not going to be restrained from using it where necessary but my powers were less clear in the previous period,” he said.

But he suggested that there were limits to his independence, claiming he was an “asset of the Prime Minister rather than a free orbiting adviser with a different sort of authority”.

Lord Geidt was also criticised by MPs for failing to investigate a recent leak of Attorney General Suella Braverman’s advice on the legality of the Northern Ireland Protocol, claiming that the matter “rests with government”

But he said the leak, which revealed that Braverman had given the green light for the government to rip the contentious legislation, was an “area of significant concern”.

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