Boris Johnson could refuse to quit even if an independent report finds he broke conflict-of-interest rules, a Tory ally suggested today.
James Cleverly said it is “not as straightforward” as the Prime Minister handing in his resignation if a probe finds he breached the Ministerial Code over the revamp of his Downing Street flat.
Despite the Code’s “independent advisor” Lord Geidt leading one of three probes into the lavish makeover, Mr Johnson himself gets the final say over whether he broke the Code.
Foreign Office minister Mr Cleverly confirmed: “The reports will come out when they come out and the Prime Minister will make decisions based on whatever the reports say.”
It comes 24 hours after Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the PM should resign if it’s decided he broke the Code.
The Code orders ministers to “ensure no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests, financial or otherwise.”
Yet the Prime Minister, while insisting he’s followed the rules, has failed to declare if anyone loaned him money for a reported £58,000 makeover of his flat last year.
Asked “yes or no” if the PM should quit if he’s found to have broken the Code, Mr Ross said: “Of course, I think people expect the highest standards of those in the highest office of the land.”
But the Prime Minister has overruled officials in the past, deciding Priti Patel did not break the Code over bullying claims despite a report saying the opposite.
Separately the Electoral Commission – the watchdog for political donations – is probing whether any offences were committed over the flat revamp.
Mr Cleverly refused at least three times today to say if the Prime Minister should quit if he’s found to have broken the rules.
He told Sky News: “The Ministerial Code is there for the guidance of the Prime Minister in appointing ministers.
“Now ultimately I’m not going to speculate as to what the outcome of things might be. The Prime Minister has already set out his explanation, he’s answered the questions that have been put to him. I don’t know any more detail than the things the Prime Minister has already said.”
Told he personally would be expected to resign if he broke the Code, he replied: “No, it’s not as straightforward as that. You’re trying to create a kind of set of conditions and that’s not how it works.
“The Ministerial Code is to inform the Prime Minister’s decisions about the appointment or maintenance of ministers – it’s not as simple as you set out.”
It comes after fresh questions about who could be trading favours with the skint Prime Minister after a lavish revamp of his grace-and-favour flat above 11 Downing Street.
No10 have insisted the PM paid for his fiancee Carrie Symonds’ refurbishment himself.
But crucially they have repeatedly refused to say if Mr Johnson – who had a costly divorce from wife of 25 years Marina Wheeler – borrowed the money to do so.
New reports yesterday claimed a Tory donor was asked to fund a nanny for Boris Johnson’s baby because the Prime Minister can’t survive on his £157,372-a-year salary.
A No 10 spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister has covered the cost of all childcare.”
But she failed to say if a Tory donor was initially asked to pay. And she did not respond when asked if the PM paid for the original bill for a nanny for Wilfred – who he had with Ms Symonds last year and is at least his sixth child – or had reimbursed somebody else.
He told Sky News: “If your question is then ‘who holds him to account’, ultimately… there’s no separate body or individual that will have power over him. It’s the British people, he’s accountable to them, that’s why we have elections.”