Labor Party’s Thangam Debbonaire wasted no time in criticizing Boris Johnson over reports that he might not hire a new head of ethics at BBC Question Time.
His robust attack came after Lord Geidt suddenly resigned earlier this week.
It was revealed in his resignation letter that he believed the prime minister had made a “mockery” of the ministerial code, proposed a “deliberate” violation of the rules that had placed Geidt in “an impossible and odious position”.
Geidt’s departure means Johnson has lost two ethics advisers in less than three years during his time at 10th place.
Then a spokesperson suggested that the prime minister might not even hire a new ethics chief — a claim that raised alarm bells among his critics.
House of Commons shadow leader Debbonaire was quick to highlight this issue on Thursday night.
She told Question Time: “Losing an ethics counselor is an oversight, but missing out on two shots of something much more serious.
“It’s really troublesome when an ethics adviser, which is clearly the tone of his letter to the prime minister, has gritted his teeth these past few months and stands his ground and trying to keep up.”
Conservative MP Matt Vickers then intervened that Geidt was “trying to renew his contract” after allegations that the ethics chief had asked to extend his term for another six months just this week, but Debbonaire ignored him.
She suggested that the “cricket” Geidt received from the parliamentary committee over the prime minister’s possible breach of the ministerial code across the party portal may have been the final straw.
“His principles led him to believe that he was placed in a hateful and impossible position, he said.
″Now he also said that this was the last in several incidents.
″I think we have a government that is prepared to put its own ethics adviser in such an impossible position, not once, not twice, but multiple times.
″That says everything you need to know about the leadership at the top of this government.
“I’m afraid to say I really don’t see how Boris Johnson is actually going to recruit another ethics consultant.”
However, she said she realized the prime minister is unlikely to hire a new one.
″He is apparently redesigning the whole idea of this role, which is an extraordinary thing to do,” said the Labor shadow minister.
“A truly ethical and moral prime minister would have nothing to fear from a strong-minded, independent ethics adviser.”
But at conservative banks, it seems more people are comfortable with the idea.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday, Business Minister Paul Scully said he was “comfortable with the idea” if there is a mechanism that still ensures that ministers are held accountable.
He suggested that the ministerial code cover this role, explaining: “It is [enshrines] the principles that we all stone, not only as parliamentarians when we enter the Chamber, but when we accept positions as ministers”.
He also said Johnson still maintains high standards despite the furor over his role in recent months over the party gate and the prime minister’s recent edits to the ministerial code.
The code sets out the set of rules of principles that all ministers, including the prime minister, must adhere to.
Johnson chose to adjust the wording of that in May, prompting further outrage from his critics.
They pointed out that this move took place shortly before the Commons’ Privilege Committee’s investigation into the prime minister began, to see if he misled the Commons by claiming that the number 10 did not break any blocking rules.