ITV News Political Correspondent Shehab Khan reports on the dramatic resignation of Lord Geidt - and gauges political reaction to an exit that threatens to help undermine the PM's premiership further
Lord Geidt has resigned as the prime minister’s adviser on ministerial interests.
Last month, the ethics advisor had said there was a "legitimate question" over whether Boris Johnson had broken the ministerial code after he was fined by the Met Police for attending a lockdown-breaking party.
In a brief statement posted to the government website on Wednesday, Lord Geidt wrote: "With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests".
He was reported to be on the verge of resignation after Boris Johnson wrote to him clearing himself of breaching the ministerial code over Partygate.
On Tuesday, Lord Geidt, a former private secretary to the Queen, declined to deny to MPs that he had considered resigning over Mr Johnson’s response to being fined for breaching lockdown rules.
How damaging is Lord Geidt's resignation for Boris Johnson and what may be behind his sudden exit? ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston reports live
Lord Geidt told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee that he had felt “frustration” amid the partygate scandal.
“I am glad that the Prime Minister was able to respond to my report and in doing so addressed aspects of the things about which I was clearly frustrated,” he told the committee.
“Resignation is one of the rather blunt but few tools available to the adviser. I am glad that my frustrations were addressed in the way that they were.”
Downing Street responded to the resignation on Wednesday night, saying in a statement "we are surprised by this decision" and adding the government was "disappointed".
A government source told ITV News' Daniel Hewitt the resignation was "a total surprise and a mystery to the PM."
Attorney General Suella Braverman was being interviewed for ITV's Peston show when the news broke. She told the programme: "Sole jurisdiction over the ministerial code is commanded by the Prime Minister."
Quizzed on whether anyone would want to advise the PM on ethics, Ms Braverman said: "These are appointments which are within the gift of the PM and I think working for Number 10, working for this government, is a great opportunity."
It was reported that Lord Geidt had threatened to quit last month after the publication of the Sue Gray report into lockdown breaches in Whitehall unless Mr Johnson issued a public explanation for his conduct.
Lord Geidt, who took up the role last April, is the second person to resign as Mr Johnson’s ethics adviser during his less than three years as PM.
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His predecessor Sir Alex Allan quit in 2020 after Mr Johnson refused to accept his finding that Home Secretary Priti Patel had bullied civil servants.
In 2020, Sir Alex said Ms Patel had "not consistently met the high standards required by the Ministerial Code of treating her civil servants with consideration and respect".
He concluded that the home secretary's behaviour - which was said to include some occasions of shouting and swearing - met the definition of bullying adopted by the civil service.
ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston described Lord Gedit's resignation as unprecedented and said it marks the most serious test for Mr Johnson's premiership to date.
On ITV's Peston show, Conservative MP Bob Seely said he was unclear about the reasons for his departure as there had been "no change in circumstances".
"I think when the privileges committee reports back, either that is going to be very bad news for the prime minister or it wont be and we can move on," he said.
"We are back in the world of real politics now and partygate is an internal Westminster story I am afraid for me," the Isle of Wight MP added, as he cited the rail strikes and the Rwandan policy as among the more important issues to the public.
Despite calls to focus on other issues, Labour renewed its wish for Mr Johnson to go following the release of the resignation statement on Wednesday evening.
Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner said: “The prime minister has now driven both of his own hand-picked ethics advisers to resign in despair. If even they can’t defend his conduct in office, how can anyone believe he is fit to govern? “Yet he remains propped up in office by a Conservative Party that is mired in sleaze and totally unable to tackle the cost-of-living crisis facing the British people. “The person who should be leaving No 10 tonight is Boris Johnson himself. “Just how long does the country have to wait before Tory MPs finally do the right thing?”
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said Mr Johnson is not fit to hold public office. “It’s no wonder the prime minister has been trying to water down the ministerial code and rewrite the rules. The only person he cares about is himself," she said. “The net really is closing in around Johnson. He’s missed the boat to do the decent thing and resign, now Conservative MPs must give him the sack.”
Lord Geidt had been in office through a series of public scandals, including the so-called Wallpapergate saga over donations to the prime minister's Downing Street flat.