Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser has not cleaned him up completely the renovation of his Downing Street apartment. It increases the chance of a separate inquiry conducted by Parliament’s standard watchdog – which, let me not forget, the Prime Minister tried to liquidate under the Owen Paterson sleaze root in November.
Important for No. 10, Ethics chief Lord Geidt says the prime minister did not set out to deliberately mislead him when he failed to declare his secret messages to a Tory donor.
Yet Geidt also suggests that the prime minister would not have been acquitted of breaking the sleaze rules if he had hosted these WhatsApp exchanges when he first asked.
In the end, it was up to the Conservative donor Lord Brownlow – not the Prime Minister or his officials – to reveal their messages to the Electoral Commission. Johnson faces awkward new questions over an exchange. In the same message, asking the Tory donor to approve funding for a £ 112,000 designer renovation of his apartment, the prime minister says he is working on Brownlow’s request for a “Great Exhibition 2”.
There is no smoking gun. But the message can be interpreted by some as a consideration. What did Lord Brownlow expect in return for his generosity? What did Mr. Johnson promise?
An angry Geidt has also given the Prime Minister a kind of ultimatum. It is reported that Geidt has considered quitting. He said yesterday that he would continue – but that by April he expects “significantly greater authority, independence and power”.
Let’s see. Yes, Mr Johnson has offered him more resources, but he will not have the power to launch his own investigations into ministerial misconduct – including in Downing Street. Recall that Boris Johnson’s last ethics adviser withdrew after the Prime Minister rejected his conclusion that Interior Minister Priti Patel violated the Ministerial Code over allegations of bullying.
This is not a prime minister eager to open the mouthpiece of Westminster’s watchdogs.