Standards adviser expected to criticise PM’s conduct but conclude he did not breach ministerial code
Boris Johnson has “made a mockery” of the standards expected of him, Labour has said, amid reports he is set to be cleared again of breaching the ministerial code over the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.
The Financial Times reported that the PM’s behaviour will be “criticised”, with ministerial standards adviser Lord Geidt describing the situation to colleagues as “deeply unsatisfactory”.
But the newspaper said it was understood Mr Johnson would be cleared of breaching the code.
It quoted a senior official as saying: “Geidt makes clear the situation is a total mess. But at the same time the fundamental conclusion is that the PM did not deceive and did not break the ministerial code.”
Lord Geidt previously cleared Mr Johnson of breaching the code in relation to the funding of the flat refurbishment but has since re-examined his initial investigation in the wake of a recent Electoral Commission probe, the FT said.
The commission fined the Conservatives £17,800 after finding the party had not followed the law over donations from Lord Brownlow to help cover the works at the flat above Number 11.
The watchdog’s report raised further questions by discussing evidence that Mr Johnson had sent the Tory peer a WhatsApp message in November 2020 “asking him to authorise further, at that stage unspecified, refurbishment works on the residence”, to which he agreed.
This was despite Mr Johnson having told Lord Geidt he had no knowledge of the payments until immediately prior to media reports in February 2021.
The FT reported that Government advisers said Lord Geidt had now seen all the relevant WhatsApp messages, and concluded there was no breach of the code.
But the newspaper said the PM’s conduct would be criticised.
It said that, according to several Whitehall officials with knowledge of Lord Geidt’s latest investigation, “three to four” letters had been exchanged with No 10 on the recent revelations, that may be published in the new year.
The FT reported that one source said of the inquiry: “There’s enough in those letters to raise eyebrows. The Prime Minister has apologised for some of the circumstances around the initial investigation, which Lord Geidt has accepted.”
Labour claimed Mr Johnson has “made a mockery” of the standards expected of him.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “After the Electoral Commission ruled that the Conservative Party broke the law on declaring donations, the Prime Minister has made a mockery of the standards the public has a right to expect.
“While the British public is facing a cost of living crisis, Boris Johnson is busy writing to his own adviser about why he did not give him all of the information he needed for his investigation.
“Lord Geidt should publish all his correspondence with the Prime Minister as a first step towards providing full transparency into how Boris Johnson is explaining away his WhatsApp messages with Tory donors.
“It is embarrassing that when the country needs real leadership, Boris Johnson is busy trying to clear up his own personal mess.”
Downing Street and the Electoral Commission declined to comment.
The Cabinet Office told the FT: “We don’t comment on speculation”.