Ethics adviser to scandal-hit UK leader Boris Johnson resigns

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LONDON — The Prime Minister’s ethics adviser to scandal-hit Boris Johnson has resigned, weeks after an investigator’s report criticized the British leader for presiding over a culture of rule-breaking in government.

Christopher Geidt resigned on Wednesday evening with a terse statement saying “with regret I think it is only fair that I step down as Independent Adviser on the Interests of Ministers”. Johnson’s office said it was surprised by the decision.

Geidt had remained in his post as Johnson was rocked by allegations about his judgment and ethics that culminated in the ‘partygate’ scandal over parties in government buildings during Britain’s coronavirus lockdowns. Johnson was one of 83 people fined by police, and an official’s report said Johnson and senior officials must take responsibility for the “failures of leadership and judgment” that created a culture of non-compliance with the rules within the government.

When questioned by lawmakers this week, Geidt admitted he had felt ‘frustration’ with his job, noting he had been appointed by the prime minister and was therefore not ‘truly independent’ .

The resignation of his hand-picked ethics counselor is the latest blow to Johnson, who survived a vote of no confidence from his own Conservative party last week. He remained a weakened leader after 41% of Conservative lawmakers voted to impeach him.

Johnson still faces a parliamentary ethics inquiry which could conclude he deliberately misled Parliament over ‘turnout’ – traditionally a resignation offense

Geidt’s predecessor as ethics adviser, Alex Allan, has also stepped down, resigning in November 2020 after the Prime Minister ignored his finding that a cabinet member had intimidated his staff and breached the ministerial code of conduct – also usually a resignation offense.

“That the Prime Minister loses an adviser for the interests of ministers can be considered a misfortune. Losing two looks like negligence,” said Tory lawmaker William Wragg, a critic of Johnson.

Geidt, a former private secretary to Queen Elizabeth II, had been accused of being soft on senior officials in his investigations. Last year, he allowed Johnson to break cabinet code by failing to disclose that a Conservative Party donor had funded an expensive renovation of the prime minister’s official residence.

In April, he cleared Treasury Chief Rishi Sunak of wrongdoing regarding his wife’s tax affairs and her possession of a US permanent resident card.


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Edward L. Robinett