Geidt doubles down on claims No 10 wanted to break international law

“The cautious language of my letter may have failed adequately to explain the far wider scope of my objection.”

Lord Geidt puts a bit more “roar” into his “squeak” – Owl

Aubrey Allegretti www.theguardian.com 

Boris Johnson’s former ethics adviser has said the reason given by Downing Street for his resignation was a “distraction” and doubled down on claims that the government wanted to break international law.

After he dramatically quit this week, Christopher Geidt said his explanation had used too much “cautious language” leading to “some confusion about the precise cause of my decision”.

In Lord Geidt’s initial letter to No 10 on Wednesday, he said he had been asked to give advice on an “odious” breach of the ministerial code. The response from Johnson suggested this was over a plan to extend steel tariffs in contravention of World Trade Organization rules.

However, after much mystery over why Geidt decided to quit over this issue and not greater concerns around Partygate, he issued a “clarification about the reasons for my departure”. “There has been some confusion about the precise cause of my decision,” he wrote in a letter to the Tory MP William Wragg, the chair of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee (PACAC).

“My letter has been interpreted to suggest that an important issue of principle was limited to some narrow and technical consideration of steel tariffs. The cautious language of my letter may have failed adequately to explain the far wider scope of my objection.”

Geidt, a former private secretary to the Queen, said the emphasis on the steel tariffs issue was a distraction and “simply one example of what might yet constitute deliberate breaches by the United Kingdom of its obligations under international law, given the government’s widely publicised openness to this”.

While the explicit reference to international law was removed from the ministerial code in 2015, Geidt said there was “no explicit derogation, no let-off written into the code to absolve individual ministers of their own obligations”. He said given his commitment to integrity, “I could not be a party to advising on any potential law-breaking”.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said Geidt had quit “because of the odious behaviour of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street”, and added: “It’s high time for Tory MPs to do the decent thing by showing this rotten, rule-breaking prime minister the door.”

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Karin Smyth, a Labour MP who sits on PACAC, said the Geidt letter had provided “helpful clarity”, but that “it isn’t steel that broke the camel’s back”.

The government was accused earlier in the week of threatening to breach international law by publishing plans to unilaterally override the Northern Ireland protocol signed by Johnson as part of his Brexit deal.

Westminster insiders speculated that Geidt could have been referring to the issue without explicitly referencing it in his latest letter when he referred to concerns about ministers breaking international law.

Geidt is the second ethics adviser to quit under Johnson. In November 2020 Alex Allen stepped down after his finding that the home secretary, Priti Patel, had breached the ministerial code by bullying staff was brushed aside by No 10.

Downing Street has launched a review of the ethics adviser role and has not confirmed whether it will replace Geidt.

Tory candidate in Tiverton by-election booed over Boris Johnson’s conduct

The Conservative candidate in the Tiverton & Honiton by-election was jeered and heckled by an angry crowd last night [Thursday] as she tried to dodge questions on Boris Johnson’s integrity.

YouTube video below – Owl

George Grylls www.thetimes.co.uk 

Helen Hurford, the owner of a beauty salon, was met with hostility at the only hustings held before the ballot next Thursday.

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Neil Parish, the Tory MP who was forced to stand down after he admitted to watching porn in the House of Commons.

The Liberal Democrats are hoping to overturn a huge Tory majority of 24,239 and deliver another blow to Johnson after the prime minister narrowly survived a vote of no confidence last week.

The party secured by-election upsets last year in the traditionally Conservative safe seats of Chesham & Amersham and North Shropshire.

At the hustings, which took place in Tiverton High School, Hurford was asked what she made of the resignation of Lord Geidt, who stood down as the prime minister’s adviser on ministerial standards on Wednesday.

“In light of the resignations of two ethics advisers in less than two years, what is your personal view on the moral character of Boris Johnson?” a member of the audience asked.

Hurford said that Johnson was “honest in relation to the pledges he makes”, but did not give her own view on his moral character.

As she tried to list the government’s achievements in rolling out the coronavirus vaccine and providing military support to Ukraine, her response was increasingly drowned out by angry cries of “shame” and “answer the question”.

“It is very easy to stand on the sidelines and attack and be aggressive,” Hurford retorted. “What I am hearing on the doorsteps is people are fed up of it. They are sick to death of it. And what they want to hear is how we are going to support them with the cost of living which is affecting us all.”

Pressed about whether she had any concerns about Johnson’s character, Hurford said: “I have no concerns that his pledges are honest.” Her answer was greeted with boos and jeers.

Johnson visited Tiverton & Honiton last week, where he held a private meeting with Hurford and a group of farmers.

The Conservatives have stepped up their campaign with Michael Gove, the housing secretary, and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, among those to go canvassing in east Devon.

 

Time to end decades of being taken for granted by complacent Tory MPs – Martin Shaw

Martin Shaw, Chair East Devon Alliance seatonmatters.org 

My latest column in today’s Midweek Herald.

I imagine that most readers are simply exasperated that Boris Johnson, despite being so comprehensively disgraced, has still not gone. He has lost the confidence of the public in Devon and across the country, but he continues to cling to power. Finally, his MPs managed to hold a vote of no confidence and many of them voted against him. But it seems that still the majority will back him come what may.

In their party best: Hurford and Johnson hiding from the public together for a photo-opportunity in a supporter’s garden.

The spinelessness of East Devon’s Conservatives

It is sadly no surprise to find that our local Conservative representatives appear to be among these. Simon Jupp, the MP for the East Devon constituency, had said he was waiting for the Sue Gray report to make up his mind. Well the Metropolitan Police issued Johnson with a fixed penalty, Gray issued a damning report, and still Mr Jupp had nothing to say. We must assume he’s one of the MPs who backed Johnson but was too ashamed of it to let his constituents know. Maybe Johnson promised to make him a junior minister for paper clips next time round?

What is it with the East Devon Conservatives? Having produced over the last decade one councillor, Graham Brown, who was caught offering to fix planning for large sums of money, an Alderman, John Humphreys, who was convicted of appalling rapes, and now an MP, Neil Parish, who had to resign for watching porn in the House of Commons, the rest of them just seem to be particularly spineless.

Certainly their by-election candidate in the Tiverton and Honiton constituency, Helen Hurford, is in no hurry to break the rule. Still silent on virtually all the issues of the day, Ms Hurford sat out the Johnson confidence vote and waited until the prime minister had won before making a comment, to the effect that she gave him her support. If voters are misguided enough to return her to Parliament on June 23rd, don’t expect her to be outspoken about East Devon’s interests –  or anything else.

A captive of the party machine

We only have to look at Ms Hurford’s campaign literature to see that this very inexperienced politician – she only recently became a town councillor – has already become captive to her party machine. How else to explain that she put out a leaflet addressed to the voters of ‘Tiverton, Honiton and the surrounding villages’, seemingly unaware that Seaton, Axminster and Cullompton are substantial towns? The leaflet was clearly written by some advertising person from London, but why didn’t the candidate put them right?

More serious was the leaflet on yellow paper which contained a collection of smears and distortions about the Liberal Democrats. The leaflet had Ms Hurford’s name in tiny print at the bottom but no indication at all that it was produced by the Conservatives. This leaflet has now attracted national notoriety – why didn’t the candidate veto it?

Most concerning of all to me was that she used Seaton’s community hospital for a photo opportunity, claiming that there are hundreds of new nurses ‘in our area’. This is the hospital that lost its beds and was almost demolished for housing development because of her government’s policies and the refusal of Devon Conservative councillors to block the closures. Given the national shortage of beds, the hospital ward could be put back to use – but the shortage of nurses is so chronic that it probably couldn’t be staffed as things stand.

Support Richard Foord on the 23rd

This is my last column before the by-election, in which we have the chance to end decades of being taken for granted by complacent Conservative MPs. Richard Foord, the Liberal Democrat candidate, has been on the doorsteps in Seaton and Axminster and is running an honest – and vocal – campaign. I will not be going as far as my East Devon Alliance colleague, Paul Arnott, and actually joining the Liberal Democrats. I intend to remain independent of any national party. But I urge all my readers to support Mr Foord on the 23rd.

District council powerless to stop ‘vanlifers’ from using de-regulated car park

East Devon District Council has admitted it is currently powerless to stop ‘vanlifers’ from using a de-regulated car park.

Dan Wilkins www.exmouthjournal.co.uk

Vanlifers are are people who live in a car or van either part time or full time.

The Journal understands there have been caravans and motor homes parked in on the site behind the Marks and Spencer Foodhall, in Royal Avenue, for around three months.

The site is owned by East Devon District Council (EDDC), however, the authority has confirmed that the site was re-regulated as a car park to facilitate works to improve the town’s sea defences.

This has left the council powerless to stop motor homes and caravans parking there.

EDDC says it is looking at future regulation of the site.

An EDDC spokesman said: “We are aware of a number of vanlifers who have been using the area behind Marks and Spencer, in Royal Avenue, in Exmouth.

“The car park was de-regulated as part of the tidal defence work to allow it to be used as a construction compound and site office, and so far a new parking places order has not been applied, this means we cannot stop campers and motorhomes parking there at this time.

“The council is currently considering the future regulation of the site and it will be discussed next month, at a campervans and motorhomes car park workshop.”

 

Councillors call for prior sewage warning for beach users at Maer Rocks

Water bosses have been urged to put a system in place alerting beach users when the sewage is being pumped into the sea at Maer rocks.

Adam Manning www.exmouthjournal.co.uk

Currently, water quality for sewage and swimming quality is reviewed once a week by the Environment Agency and South West Water.

At the full council meeting on Monday (June 13), members of the Exmouth Escape (End Sewage Convoys and Pollution in Exmouth) group provided evidence to councillors about the amount of sewage being pumped into the sea at Exmouth, and the Exe Estuary. 

In response, councillors discussed inviting a representative of South West Water to a town council meeting to discuss what more can be done to limit the amount of pollution and sewage. 

Councillors said they were ‘extremely concerned’ about the increasing amount of sewage being imported into Exmouth by lorry, the consequential damage to roads and the resulting carbon footprint.

Cllr Olly Davey said: “I notice in one of the answers from South West Water to Simon Jupp that when they were queried on whether there was insufficient evidence, their response was there is, but not in the summer when the tourists arrive, well, that suggests to me it’s insufficient for several months of the year.

“That’s not an answer, so if you can’t cope when the tourists come 

“I agree South West Water have had pressure from EDDC (East Devon District Council), I don’t think they need pressure from us as well, they need pressure from absolutely everybody.

“They have been able to distribute eye-watering amounts of sewage and yet somehow they keep telling us they cant do this and that.

“I would like to make one amendment one bit of this, point three, I think we should write to the CEO and ask her to address a council meeting, not the council because you’re only giving yourself one bite of the cherry and also CEO or a representative because they may feel someone else may be more appropriate.”

Exmouth Town Council will now go back to South West Water and invite them to the next town council meeting to discuss.