Boris Johnson’s former ethics advisor Lord Geidt is said to believe that claims the PM tried to appoint his future wife Carrie to a top government job that could be “ripe” for investigation.
A report published in the first edition of The Times on Saturday alleged that Mr Johnson had attempted to install his then-girlfriend in a £100,000-a-year job in the Foreign Office in 2018.
The story was pulled from later editions after No 10 intervened, and Ms Johnson’s spokesperson described it as “totally untrue”, but Downing Street has so far refused to comment on the claim.
And No 10 did not deny a further report in the Daily Mirror Today that Mr Johnson had discussed with aides the possibility of appointing Carrie as an ambassador in the run-up to last year’s COP26 global climate summit or as communications director for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Earthshot Prize.
A Downing Street source said that it was “untrue” to suggest that Mr Johnson had recommended his wife for either job, but did not respond when asked whether he had discussed it with aides. The PM’s official spokesperson refused to discuss details of Mr Johnson’s private conversations with advisers.
The spokesperson said: “The prime minister has never recommended Mrs Johnson for a government role, or one as part of the Earthshot Prize. Beyond that I wouldn’t get into any conversations the prime minister may or may not have had in private.”
And Ms Johnson’s spokesperson said: “This is an old story which is as untrue now as it was then.”
But Lord Geidt – who sensationally quit as adviser on ministers’ interests last week – reportedly believes the matter of the alleged attempt to find Carrie a role at the Foreign Office could be probed by his replacement.
The ex-ethics watchdog “thinks the incident could be a matter for his success” and “could be ripe for investigation”, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The initial allegation about the PM attempting to install Carrie at the Foreign Office appeared in the first edition of The Times on Saturday, but vanished from later copies.
Downing Street confirmed aides intervened following the initial publication of the allegation in The Timesbut denied that the PM himself contacted the paper to complain.
The story expanded on allegations made in a biography of Ms Johnson, First Lady: Intrigue at the Court of Carrie and Boris Johnsonwritten by Tory donor Lord Ashcroft earlier this year.
Responding to an initial story, a spokesperson for Ms Johnson said: “These claims are totally untrue.”
But The Times‘ journalist Simon Walters is standing by his story “100 per cent”, saying he had been in communication with No 10 aides and Mrs Johnson’s spokeswoman before the paper went to press.
“At no point did any of them offer an on-the-record denial of any element of the story,” Mr Walters said.
Despite Lord Geidt’s apparent intervention in the row about Ms Johnson, it is not clear whether there will be a successor in the same role in advising on potential breaches of the ministerial code.
Mr Johnson is considering not replacing his ethics watchdog, with No 10 saying there would be a review into how best to manage the “vitally important” function and admitting the position could be abolished.
Parliament is set to vote on Tuesday on a Labor plan to grant MPs on a cross-party select committee new powers to hold Mr Johnson and his ministers to account for any alleged breach of rules.
Labor’s proposal would hand new powers to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee (PACAC) to appoint its own adviser on alleged ministerial code breaches if the role is unfilled.
Keir Starmer‘s party will force a vote on Tuesday on the motion, which would give the committee’s ethics advisor the ability to launch investigations if Geidt is not replaced within two months.
Labor’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said it would amount to putting No 10 in “special measures” to stop Mr Johnson “running roughshod over the rules, dodging accountability, and degrading standards in public life.”