Lord Christopher Geidt, Boris Johnson’s ethics watchdog, quit on Wednesday, a day after expressing disappointment in his role and speaking of a “particularly busy” year trying to maintain uphold the standards in No. 10.
Geidt has been criticized more his investigation of the “wallpaperUp” case financed the renovation of Johnson’s Downing Street apartment last year. He was then thrust into the controversy over the prime minister’s participation in Covid-19 lockdown parties.
Number 10 insiders said the news was “a complete surprise” and Geidt only said this week that he wants to stay in the job for another six months.
But the mentor, drawn from the heart of the British establishment, admitted to MPs this week it is difficult for him to prove that he does not have a “cozy” relationship with the prime minister.
On Wednesday, after weeks of speculation that he was about to step down, Geidt resigned, announcing his decision in a brief statement just before 7pm.
In a statement released by the government, he said: “It is with regret I feel that it is right for me to resign as Independent Adviser on the Interests of Ministers.”
Geidt’s departure will refocus attention on Johnson’s behavior in Downing Street, a week after he survived a vote of confidence among Tory MPs with 211 votes to 148.
The adviser, a former private secretary to Queen Elizabeth II, was recruited by Johnson in April 2021 and lasted more than a year in the job. This week, he told MPs with a laugh it had been a “particularly busy” year.
Geidt replaced Sir Alex Allan in the job; His predecessor resigned after disagreeing with Johnson over allegations that Priti Patel, the home secretary, broke departmental rules. by shouting and swearing at the staff.
Geidt’s first assignment was to investigate the financing of the renovation of Johnson’s 10th flat. He has been criticized for not being thorough enough in examining the prime minister’s claim that he was unaware that the funding was coming from a Tory donor.
Asked by the Commons public administration committee on Tuesday, Geidt admitted: “How can I beat the impression that it is a cozy relationship, not independent enough? It is very difficult. But I’m trying my best to work with what I have.”
He describes himself as “the prime minister’s property. . . rather than a free orbital advisor”, although he feels Johnson has given him new powers to start his own investigations.
In the end, the stresses of work and public criticism of him – some media reports described him as “a moron” – seem to have taken their toll.
Geidt has said that suggesting Johnson is “reasonable”. may have violated the law when he was fined in the partygate scandal. He asked Johnson for a statement to explain his conduct and the prime minister cleared himself of any violations.
He told MPs the “ordinary man or woman” could have concluded Johnson had broken the rule, as he had received a fixed penalty notice. The Code requires ministers to comply with the law.
Geidt suggested he warned Johnson that he would quit if he did not explain his behavior: “Resignation is one of the blunt tools that are less readily available to advisors. I’m glad my frustrations were resolved the way they were. “
Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, said: “The Prime Minister has now made both of his own handpicked ethics advisers resign in desperation. If even they cannot protect his conduct during his tenure, how can anyone believe he is qualified to rule? ”
Lord Nick Macpherson, a former permanent secretary of the Treasury, said it was hard to see any credible figure volunteering to take on Geidt’s role as it is now.
“Even if the powers of the ethics advisor are increased, the system is only strong when the Prime Minister is committed to high standards.” he said on Twitter.