Following comments in his annual report by the prime minister’s ethic advisor, Lord Geidt, that it was a ‘legitimate question’ to ask whether the prime minister has broken the ministerial code, the deputy prime minister has this morning made a further staunch defence of his boss.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme, Dominic Raab said of the prime minister, that, “He has been very clear, in a letter in response, squarely addressing this, that because the breach in the regulations was not intentional, and we have gone over the facts of this on numerous occasions, that this does not amount to a breach of the code, and there is of course precedent for that”.
Addressing the question directly of whether Mr Johnson knowingly broke covid rules, Mr Raab said, “The point that the PM has made is that the single fixed penalty notice, that was applied to him, was related to something where he didn’t intend to break the rules and it has been inadvertent in the sense that he turned up to a gathering where people had wanted to say happy birthday to him with a cake, he was there for a very short period of time, and therefore it was inadvertent”.
In response to suggestions that Mr Johnson may have misled parliament, Mr Raab pointed to how the prime minister had spent many hours answering questions from MPs, adding, “In relation to what the PM had told parliament, he has corrected the record”.
The Justice secretary also pointed to the subsequent overhaul of the Number 10 operation since the ‘partygate’ allegations first emerged as evidence the Mr Johnson is now getting his house in order.
Alongside his other partygate challenges, the prime minister has been coming under sustained pressure in relation to the ministerial code. There have been suggestions that his ethics advisor, Lord Geidt, remains on the brink of resignation.
Political opponents have also seized on the intervention of Lord Geidt, with the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Wendy Chamberlain MP saying, “This scathing criticism shows even Boris Johnson’s own ethics adviser no longer trusts him to tell the truth. He is not fit to hold public office” adding, “It’s no wonder the Prime Minister has been trying to water down the Ministerial Code and rewrite the rules”.
In comments attempting to highlight the accountability that political leaders face in the United Kingdom, Mr Raab said, “I don’t think that anyone could conceivably say that the various checks and balances have not bitten in on this issue, because we have had a metropolitan police inquiry, we have the interim and now final Sue Gray inquiry, and of course we have now had what Lord Geidt has said”.