Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Boris Johnson will be acquitted of violating the ministerial code by a internal Whitehall investigation in a loan to renovate his Downing Street home, but his behavior will be criticized, according to senior officials.

Lord Christopher Geidt, the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, has exchanged a series of letters with the prime minister in recent weeks about further revelations about a £ 58,000 donation from Lord David Brownlow to refurbish Johnson’s number 11 Downing Street apartment.

Although Geidt Johnson had earlier acquitted the breach of the ministerial code over allegations that he had requested a donation from Brownlow, a recent inquiry by the Electoral Commission revealed WhatsApp messages between Brownlow and Johnson.

Geidt has since re-examined his initial investigation to see if he was misled by Johnson when the prime minister said he had not requested a donation from Brownlow. Government insiders said Geidt has now seen all the relevant WhatsApp messages.

The inquiry was closely watched by Johnson’s allies, who feared it could lead to further inquiries by Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone. One said: “Boris wants all the flat stuff to be solved. But the investigation can cause him all sorts of trouble. “

Lord Christopher Geidt is the independent adviser on ministers’ interests © Dominik Lipinski / PA

According to several Whitehall officials with knowledge of Geidt’s latest investigation, “three to four” letters have been exchanged with Number 10 that will possibly be published in the new year.

According to those with knowledge of the investigation, Johnson’s behavior will be “criticized”, with Geidt describing the situation to colleagues as “deeply unsatisfactory”.

One senior official said: “Geidt makes it clear that the situation is a total mess. But at the same time the fundamental conclusion is that the prime minister did not cheat the ministerial code and did not break the ministerial code.”

Downing Street declined to comment.

The Cabinet office, where Geidt’s office is located, said: “We do not comment on speculation”.

Insiders said much of the blame for the lack of clarity about the donation was attributed by Johnson and Geidt to the process surrounding Geidt’s initial investigation into the apartment. “Reasons were given why certain details, such as the WhatsApp messages, were not given. He returned the first report in great detail, “said one insider.

Another Whitehall official said of the inquiry: “There is enough in those letters to raise eyebrows. The Prime Minister has apologized for some of the circumstances surrounding the initial inquiry, which Lord Geidt accepted.”

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labor Party, called on Geidt to publish “all of his correspondence” with Johnson on the flat donation “as a first step towards providing full transparency”.

“After the Electoral Commission ruled that the Conservative Party had violated the law on the declaration of donations, the Prime Minister made a mockery of the standards the public has a right to expect,” she said.

Instead of sanctions, Geidt and Johnson agreed to reform the system of overseeing ministerial interests, including that more resources should be allocated to the relevant secretariat within the Cabinet Office.

One Geidt ally said: “He made the point that the independent commissioner should be blamed above and always have the facts.”

A separate investigation is underway allegations by parties held across Whitehall who broke coronavirus restrictions, led by senior official Sue Gray. She is expected to complete her investigation early in the new year following interviews with senior Number 10 officials and special advisers.

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