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Tory MP warns Boris Johnson a replacement for ex-ethics adviser Lord Geidt is needed – Daily Elevated News

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June 17, 2022

Tory MP warns Boris Johnson a replacement for ex-ethics adviser Lord Geidt is needed


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Boris Johnson has pulled out of a major event held by his northern Tory MPs designed to energise supporters and improve the party’s chances of holding on to “red wall” seats at the next election.

After telling the Northern Research Group he would address its gathering with hundreds of activists held in Doncaster on Thursday, No 10 said the prime minister would not be able to attend.

The caucus is run by Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry and acts as a pressure group to fight for more attention to be paid to the swathes of seats the Conservatives won for the first time in 2019 across northern England.

No reason was given by Downing Street for Johnson’s non-attendance.

Some Tories had expected him to visit Wakefield, 20 miles away, before joining the conference.

Johnson, whose birthday is on Sunday, has yet to visit the seat which will hold a byelection next Thursday after being vacated by Imran Ahmed-Khan following a conviction for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

One Tory MP said it was a “big error” for Johnson to pull out.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said progress on ensuring racial equality in the Metropolitan police had gone “backwards” in the last 10 years.

He told the BBC’s World At One programme:

When I was growing up, my experience of police was to avoid them. Why? Because of a fear of them picking on you and criminalising people who look like you.

And almost 30 years after Stephen Lawrence’s racist murder, I’d hoped that those days were behind us.

I think it’s possible to say that on the one hand, progress has been made over the last 20 or 30 years, but also say that in the last 10 years in particular, things have gone backwards.

Because you’ve got officers who think it’s OK to share with other officers in WhatsApp messages things that are clearly overtly racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, and so forth.

That’s why it’s really important to acknowledge that but also to say to the next commissioner: ‘If you’re going to have my support to be the next commissioner, you’ve got to get it and be a reforming commissioner that addresses these issues.’

The chair of an influential group of MPs has echoed comments made by the cabinet minister Michael Gove, who has warned the UK must maintain control of public finances in the face of “tough times ahead” for the country and the global economy.

Jake Berry, the chair of the Northern Research Group, a pressure group of Tory MPs calling for increased investment in the north of England, said it was right that “we have to keep public finances in order”.

Speaking at the Times CEO Summit in London, Gove, the levelling up secretary, said while the government had a responsibility to help the very poorest, it also had a responsibility to bear down on the root causes of inflation.

He said:

We do definitely need to have a monetary policy that squeezes inflation out of the system and that will mean undoubtedly that we need to maintain control of our finances and that we need to ensure in the difficult period over the next few years we are not knocked off our course.

I think it is inevitably the case that, when you are squeezing inflation out of the system, you will rely on the Bank of England and the government having the fiscal and the monetary policies, which will inevitably mean we cannot do all the things that we would, in ideal circumstances, like to do in order to support people through a difficult period.

Read more here:

Boris Johnson has pulled out of a major event held by his northern Tory MPs designed to energise supporters and improve the party’s chances of holding on to “red wall” seats at the next election.

After telling the Northern Research Group he would address its gathering with hundreds of activists held in Doncaster on Thursday, No 10 said the prime minister would not be able to attend.

The caucus is run by Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry and acts as a pressure group to fight for more attention to be paid to the swathes of seats the Conservatives won for the first time in 2019 across northern England.

No reason was given by Downing Street for Johnson’s non-attendance.

Some Tories had expected him to visit Wakefield, 20 miles away, before joining the conference.

Johnson, whose birthday is on Sunday, has yet to visit the seat which will hold a byelection next Thursday after being vacated by Imran Ahmed-Khan following a conviction for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

One Tory MP said it was a “big error” for Johnson to pull out.

Dropping the pledge to abolish tuition fees in England, one of Keir Starmer’s key pledges, tantamount to the Labour party shooting itself in the foot, Momentum has said.

The possibility of Starmer abandoning one of his signature policy pledges – said to be part of a desire to sound more fiscally responsible – was raised in an article published by the FT yesterday.

A spokesman for Momentum, Labour’s leftwing campaign group, said in response to the article:

Scrapping tuition fees was the flagship policy of Labour’s 2017 General Election campaign, which saw the biggest increase in the Party’s vote share since 1945, gaining dozens of seats.

It was also one of Keir Starmer’s key pledges in his leadership election bid, now tossed aside like so many broken promises.

The upshot is a Labour Party shooting itself in the foot by failing to offer any real change to Britain’s failed economic model.

Downing Street defended Boris Johnson for considering abolishing the role of ministerial interests adviser after further criticism of the review launched following Christopher Geidt’s resignation.

No 10 was asked about the warning from Committee on Standards in Public Life chairman Jonathan Evans that “removing this independent voice on standards issues at the heart of government would risk further damage to public perceptions of standards”.

No 10 spokesman responded:

He (the prime minister) will take advice from advisers within No 10 and others with expertise in this area and it may be that the prime minister decides to make a like-for-like replacement, or it might be that we set up a different body that undertakes the same functions.

But the prime minister thinks it’s right to take the time to reflect on those issues which are well highlighted.

The spokesman declined to commit to complete the review into how to replace Lord Geidt before the end of the year.

He said: “I wouldn’t get into timelines.”

Downing Street welcomed the possibility of the UK hosting Eurovision if Ukraine cannot, pledging to ensure it would “overwhelmingly reflects Ukraine’s rich culture, heritage and creativity”.

Ukraine won this year’s contest with Kalush Orchestra’s Stefania and tradition dictates that the previous year’s winners host the next contest but the event’s organisers say they have “with deep regret” concluded that it will not be possible host the contest in Ukraine, because of the ongoing war, following Russia’s invasion.

The event’s organisers have now asked the BBC to host next year’s competition, after the UK finished in second place with Sam Ryder’s Space Man.

A No 10 spokesman said:

Ukraine’s victory in the Eurovision song contest was richly deserved and as the rightful winner the Government’s firm wish has been to see next year’s contest hosted there.

If the EBU decides the competition can’t go ahead in Ukraine we would of course welcome the opportunity to work closely with Ukraine and the BBC to host it here in the UK.

But we would be committed to ensuring it overwhelmingly reflects Ukraine’s rich culture, heritage and creativity, as well as building on the ongoing partnership between our two countries.

Asked if the government would help the BBC with the costs of putting on such a large-scale event, the spokesman said “we’re slightly getting ahead of ourselves in terms of the process”.

Business minister Paul Scully said he wants “to get back to being a low-tax government”.

The Conservative told LBC:

I want to get back to being a low-tax government trusting people to spend their own money.

However, we put 408 billion into the economy over Covid – that does give us 408 billion reasons to get this next bit right, to make sure that the gains that we had protecting livelihoods and businesses don’t get lost in these headwinds that are with us.

Nonetheless, though, there are some tax cuts that are still going through, whether it’s the air passenger duty, the 5p off fuel duty – albeit that that’s obviously got swallowed up by massive global pressures.

But importantly for businesses and growing, the super deduction on capital investments; and for individuals, the changes to National Insurance thresholds which they will actually see – something like 80% of workers will see more money in their pay packet next month when that kicks in.

The government is trying to tackle the cost of living “storm” but cannot solve every problem or save every business, a business minister has told Sky News.

Stressing the “tight” public finances and burgeoning national debt after the pandemic, Paul Scully played down the immediate likelihood of tax cuts to help struggling households.

He said:

We are trying to do everything we can to tackle the cost of living issue. This is a global situation.

We have got to do everything we can to weather that storm.

Though he highlighted the support provided by the chancellor, including the lifting of the threshold at which employees start to pay national insurance, Scully said:

The government can’t solve every problem.

It will not be able to save every business and work with everybody’s individual costs but we will do everything we can within the remit of keeping public finances tight as well.

Because we are serving our national debt. We are paying something like £85bn just to service our debt – not to go to schools, hospitals.

Nearly 100 MPs have written to Boris Johnson urging him to cancel new guidelines which will require the notes of counselling sessions for survivors of rape and sexual assault to be disclosed to the defence when their attackers go on trial.

The letter, which was sent to the prime minister this morning, has been signed by Emily Thornberry, Angela Rayner, Yvette Cooper, Jess Phillips and almost the entire women’s Parliamentary Labour Party – 98 female MPs in total – with a few missing due to illness.

The letter follows a question from Sarah Champion at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. The MP for Rotherham asked about the Attorney General’s proposed changes, which the prime minister seemed unaware of.

In their letter, the MPs explained that counselling is “a crucial step on the road to recovery”, and one which they should feel confident about seeking.

In the letter, the MPs said:

If these changes go ahead, it risks opening the door for the disclosure of almost all notes from pre-trial counselling sessions received by survivors of rape and sexual assault. And sadly, the history of such trials in our country has told us what will happen next.

The deeply personal, private information from those counselling sessions will not just be exposed for the world to see, but be used to try and intimidate, humiliate and discredit women and girls who are simply trying to bring the men who raped or assaulted them to justice.

That prospect will cause many survivors to avoid seeking therapy, and make it more likely that cases will collapse when the prolonged stress of waiting for trials becomes too much. As Sarah said to you on Wednesday, it will force many women to choose between therapy and justice.

Incidents of violence against women and girls are at record highs and waits for rape cases to reach completion in court are taking over 1,000 days – so it’s inhumane to make it harder for rape survivors to access therapy.

I’ve signed this letter urging the Govt to reconsider. pic.twitter.com/571Mltc5PK

— Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (@DrRosena) June 17, 2022

Lynton Crosby, the election guru and businessman, has been attending Boris Johnson’s 8.30am meetings in No 10, showing he is more involved in the prime minister’s decision making than previously thought.

The Australian political strategist, whose advisory firm has represented tobacco as well as oil and gas interests, is known to have been helping Johnson remotely over his leadership woes but his involvement in the regular meetings shows he appears to have taken a much greater role than before.

Crosby runs CT Group – a government affairs, polling and research company – as well as advising political leaders on their electoral strategy. His return to advising Johnson has coincided with a shift to the right as the prime minister tries to bolster his standing with that wing of the party and those who elected him 2019.

A No 10 source confirmed that Crosby had attended some morning meetings, but insisted these were party political rather than official government ones.

A government spokesperson said:

Lynton Crosby is not a government employee. Any assistance to the prime minister would be party political and in his capacity as leader of the Conservative party.

Read more from my colleagues Rowena Mason and Aubrey Allegretti here:

The Conservative candidate in Tiverton and Honiton has blamed the media for preventing the public from “moving on” from Partygate and twice declined to say that Boris Johnson was honest.

In an interview with the Guardian, Helen Hurford acknowledged the party faced a very tight battle to retain the previously ultra-safe seat and criticised what she called the media’s “persistent regurgitating of Partygate”. Asked if she believed Boris Johnson was fundamentally honest, Hurford twice refused to say.

Hurford, a former headteacher and a Honiton town councillor who now runs a beauty training business, is defending a 24,000-plus majority won in 2019 by the MP Neil Parish, who resigned in April after admitting he had watched pornography on his phone in the Commons chamber.

But the byelection on 23 June, which comes on the same day the Tories defend another seat in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, is widely seen as an ultra-close race between Hurford and the Liberal Democrat candidate, Richard Foord.

Internal polling by the Lib Dems of those intending to vote on the day of the byelection, released on Wednesday, put the Conservatives on 46% and the Lib Dems on 44%.

“I think it’s going to be very tight, and we can’t take anything for granted whatsoever,” Hurford said. “It could come down to very small numbers.”

Read more here:

The government’s former anti-corruption champion has said it would be “quite a big mistake” for Boris Johnson to scrap the ethics adviser role after the resignation of Lord Geidt.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson said on Thursday that Johnson would not immediately start looking for a replacement for Geidt, but would instead review the system of enforcing the ministerial code.

In a strongly worded resignation letter published by Downing Street on Thursday, Geidt cited Johnson’s problematic response to the Partygate scandal as one reason for his departure.

But he made clear the final straw had been a request from Johnson for Geidt to approve a plan to extend tariffs on steel imports, which could break World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, putting the government in breach of international law.

John Penrose, who resigned from the anti-corruption role last week, said of the ethics adviser position:

You can obviously change the role a bit, but you shouldn’t be weakening the role.

If you’re going to come up with a revised version as a successor to Lord Geidt, some new format, some new way of dealing with the issue, that’s all fine. But it should be a question of how, not if.

You can’t just pretend that it doesn’t matter, and that there’s no job to be done.

Read more here:

Business minister Paul Scully has said he believes the prime minister upholds the highest standards required of his office despite the resignation of Christopher Geidt.

He added that he would feel comfortable without an ethics adviser as long as there is a “mechanism” to ensure standards are upheld.

When asked whether he could say that Boris Johnson upheld high standards, Scully told Sky News:

Yes, I can. I think Lord Geidt seems to have resigned on the discussion around when the prime minister asked him for advice for supporting industries in the next few months.

He added:

In terms of the prime minister’s behaviour, he rightly wants to draw a line under the so called partygate because people are worried more about the cost of living, what it’s going to mean for their mortgages and their bills in the days and months ahead.

When asked whether he would be comfortable if no-one is hired to replace Lord Geidt as adviser on ministerial standards, Scully said:

I think I would be comfortable with that as long as there is a mechanism that (ensures) the prime minister and that me as minister are held to the highest standards.

There is a ministerial code there and we want to make sure that it’s adhered to, because it (enshrines) the principles that we all stand on, not just as MPs when we first come into the House, but when we accept office as ministers.

Former anti-corruption champion John Penrose said it would be “quite a big mistake” to do away with the ethics adviser role following Christopher Geidt’s resignation.

The Conservative MP for Weston-Super-Mare, who himself resigned last week, said of the ethics adviser position:

You can obviously change the role a bit, but you shouldn’t be weakening the role.

If you’re going to come up with a revised version as a successor to Lord Geidt, some new format, some new way of dealing with the issue, that’s all fine. But it should be a question of how, not if.

You can’t just pretend that it doesn’t matter, and that there’s no job to be done.

Penrose told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

I just think that the prime minister is currently overdrawn, if I can put it that way, on his account with both the voters and with the parliamentary party. They need to show that they’re serious about this.

This is part of the reset, I would argue, which the prime minister has rightly said he wants to do after last week’s vote of no confidence. Good for him. This will be a good way of being part of that and moving it forward.

A government minister has distanced himself from a Conservative by-election candidate’s assertion that voters should still trust the Tory party after the jailing of disgraced former Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan just as they still trust GPs despite the crimes of mass-murderer Harold Shipman.

When asked on LBC about the comment made by Nadeem Ahmed, who is running in the Wakefield by-election later this month, Paul Scully said:

It’s not a comparison I would have made. It’s the first I’ve heard about it to be fair.

But in terms of trusting politicians, I think you have to look at why people get into politics and the vast, vast, vast majority of my colleagues on either side of the House do this for the absolutely right reasons: to do the best for their constituents and the country.

They disagree on how to do it, but they do it for the right reason.

Read the full story on Ahmed’s comments here:

The government’s former anti-corruption champion John Penrose urged the government not to “leave really quite damaging questions dangling” by not replacing Christopher Geidt after the ethics advisor’s resignation on Wednesday.

When asked about Lord Geidt’s work, such as the investigation into the Downing Street flat, the Conservative MP for Weston-Super-Mare told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

I think one of the reasons why it’s important to have some continuity, why it’s important to have if not a precise replacement then an effective succession here is to make sure that you don’t leave really quite damaging questions dangling and that anything that’s outstanding doesn’t just get forgotten and lost.

He said of the report into the flat:

I don’t know how complete it is, I don’t know whether or not there’s anything that still remains to be done on it or whether or not it’s just sitting on a shelf and waiting to be published.

But I think the important thing with all of these issues is they don’t go away if you just ignore them. Ethics and integrity doesn’t work like that, and therefore they will have to put this stuff to bed or the only way to draw a line under these things, frankly, is to get it out in the open and then people can understand and move on.

Welcome to today’s liveblog. I’ll be updating you throughout the day. Do drop me an email on nicola.slawson@theguardian.com or send me a tweet @Nicola_Slawson if you think I’m missing something or if you have a question.

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