Another Blow: Could Ethics Adviser's Resignation Inflict Further Damage on UK’s BoJo?

© AFP 2022 / AARON CHOWNBritain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the National Service of Thanksgiving for The Queen's reign at Saint Paul's Cathedral in London on June 3, 2022 as part of Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee celebrations.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the National Service of Thanksgiving for The Queen's reign at Saint Paul's Cathedral in London on June 3, 2022 as part of Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee celebrations. - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.06.2022
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Lord Christopher Geidt quit over a No. 10 plan to "deliberately breach the ministerial code" which put him in an "impossible and odious" position, his resignation letter revealed. Geidt is the second ethics adviser to resign under Boris Johnson's premiership.
"The resignation of Lord Geidt, who is Boris Johnson's ethics adviser, is, to put it mildly, rather embarrassing for Boris Johnson," explained Alistair Jones, associate professor of politics at Leicester's De Montfort University.
"Lord Geidt is of the opinion that Boris Johnson breached the ministerial code of conduct in relation to the parties held in Downing Street during the period of lockdown. And there were indications that he might resign when Sue Gray's report [on the matter] came out. But he didn't. He asked the Prime Minister to actually explain and justify his actions. And it appears to be that the explanations given to date by Boris Johnson have not been sufficient for Lord Geidt, and therefore he has resigned,” Jones continued.
Geidt's resignation came on the heels of a failed Tory no-confidence vote targeting Johnson over the partygate scandal. The measure was initiated by the Tory backbench 1922 Committee after Gray's report exposed 16 cases of lockdown violations by cabinet officials. Johnson participated in several parties himself between 2020 and 2021, at a time when tough COVID rules imposed by his office were still in place. Even though BoJo managed to survive the vote, a strong rebellion continues to simmer within Tory ranks.
Nonetheless, "The question therefore becomes whether or not Boris Johnson can survive because Lord Geidt is merely an ethics adviser," said Jones. "He is not a member of the cabinet. He is not a member of the government. So in this respect, he was a prime ministerial appointment only. So as it stands, it will be highly unlikely if anybody was to resign from the government in response to Lord Geidt resignation. However, there will be people in the Conservative Party, bearing in mind that 40% of MPs (over 40% in fact) voted to not support Boris Johnson as prime minister, as party leader."
FILE - Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference in Downing Street, London, Wednesday, May 25 2022, following the publication of Sue Gray's report into Downing Street parties in Whitehall  - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.06.2022
‘Pyrrhic Victory’: BoJo Will Drag His Party Down With Him After Winning Confidence Vote – Analyst
To complicate matters further, the Conservatives are bracing for two critical by-elections next week. In Wakefield, a former safe Labour seat that the Tories won in 2019, it looks like there is going to be a monumental swing back to Labour, the professor suggested. The second is in the south west of England in Tiverton. Even though it is regarded as a "very safe conservative seat" the Liberal Democrats claim that they can win it.
With Lord Geidt's resignation a week before polling day casting doubt on BoJo's conduct, the Lib Dems may be victorious in Tiverton, according to the professor, who recalled a previous Lib Dem by-election victory, "which had been about the fourth safest seat that the Conservatives had held earlier this year."
"And all of this is bad news for Boris Johnson," Jones warned.
When it comes to the Labour opposition, they are unlikely to prey on Johnson right now, the academic believes. The best thing for Labour to do is “nothing”, while the Conservative government and Boris Johnson in particular repeatedly commit huge mistakes, he explained, adding that if the Labour Party tries "to party-politicise things, that may actually rally support behind Boris Johnson."
As BoJo's cabinet struggles with inflation, the Tory rebellion, the consequences of partygate, a controversy surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol amendment, and Scotland's renewed call for an independence referendum, it appears one is unlikely to see any substantial shift in the UK's policy with BoJo in office.
"The change is likely to happen if and when Boris Johnson steps down as Conservative Party leader and as prime minister, and it will depend very much upon who replaces him," concluded Jones. "So if there is someone who replaces him as Conservative Party leader and as Prime Minister who has got a clean ethical record, then yes, we are likely to see a transformation in how politics is conducted in the UK, there will be less 'Yah-boo' politics, which Boris Johnson loves so much, and more serious, informed political debate."
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