Voices: Johnson’s allies will quietly rubbish Geidt as a fuddy-duddy courtier – but the damage to the PM is done

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Geidt told a select committee of MPs that he thought Johnson was bang to rights (PA Wire)
Geidt told a select committee of MPs that he thought Johnson was bang to rights (PA Wire)

It’s a funny old world. Boris Johnson lies, breaks the law and ignores every ethical convention in public life and… his ethics adviser resigns.

At times like this one ought to be forgiven for recycling the tired old line from Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest: “To lose one independent adviser on ministers’ interests, Mr Johnson, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.”

The Importance of Being Christopher (Lord) Geidt is that he was there to try and stop the prime minister from destroying himself. He was Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser. It's like a joke job title, akin to being Patrick Stewart’s chief hair stylist or being put in charge of wardrobe on Naked Attraction. Undignified at best.

Only a man imbued with the ethos of public service could have put up with the being treated with open contempt by Johnson. Geidt might have worked harmoniously as private secretary to Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but we all know Johnson wanted to be “World King” at age 8, and he behaves as if he made it. Like Sir Alex Allan before him, Geidt had to go. Johnson’s outrages were too much for him, and when Geidt made his views on Johnson clear to a Commons select committee (albeit in code), his position was no longer tenable. A marriage made in hell is over.

Poor old Geidt. Johnson couldn’t be bothered to meet him, and Geidt was reduced to writing passive-aggressive missives in his annual report, basically whingeing about his boss. He ended up in a position where, as he explained, he couldn’t give Johnson the correct advice because if he did he knew Johnson would ignore him and that would put him in such an impossible position that he’d have to quit.

Instead, oddly enough, Geidt told a select committee of MPs, and thus indirectly told Johnson (and the rest of us), that he thought the PM was bang to rights. Or in fluent Geidtspeak, “I think it's reasonable that some – and indeed many people had written to me making this point – it's reasonable to say that, perhaps a fixed penalty notice and a prime minister paying for it, may have constituted not meeting the overarching duty under the ministerial code, of complying with the law”.

So let’s just be clear now. Having taken everything into account – Sue Gray, the Met, statements to the Commons, interviews, Dom’s blog, chats with other officials – the prime minister’s very own independent adviser on ministerial standards concludes that Johnson broke the ministerial code, and thus logically ought to resign. It’s quite something, punch drunk as we all are by long-term exposure to Johnson’s unique approach to truth and decency.

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Of course, Johnson won't quit until he has to. The immediate consequences are grimly predictable. Geidt's position will be left vacant for as long as possible, to maximise Johnson's freedom, and then some crony given the role. Johnson has already rewritten the ministerial code to weaken it. He might even abolish Geidt's old job. He'd certainly like to.

Johnson’s remaining allies will quietly rubbish Geidt as an unworldly fuddy-duddy courtier out of his depth on the grown-up Fight Club of contemporary British politics: The truth is for cissies, laws are for losers, advisers, schmadvisers. No one in the Red Wall has heard of Geidt. He doesn’t matter. People know Boris doesn't do detail. We want to move on… big calls… vaccine roll-out… Ukraine loves Boris… beergate… draw a line… matter closed… levelling up… jobs, jobs, jobs.

You know the script. But Geidt will get his side of the story out, one way or another, and the stiletto will be plunged between the PM's shoulder blades. More Tory MPs will be convinced he is a liability. In a week's time the voters in the two by-elections, in Yorkshire and in Devon, will speak for England. When they do, Tory MPs will soil themselves. Nothing panics this lot like a double-digit swing to the opposition and some muscular tactical voting in a by-election, and it wouldn’t take that much more for them to finally decide to ditch Big Dog for good. With Geidt’s connections at the Palace, I doubt Johnson will find himself given a knighthood as compensation.

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