‘Massive conflict of interest!’ Robert Peston slams Lord Geidt’s role after lockdown party

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ITV’s political editor Robert Peston, 61, ridiculed Lord Geidt, 60, after he exposed how the crossbench peer’s position is reliant on Boris Johnson, 57, granting the independent adviser on ministers’ interests permission to investigate matters further. The comments came after it was revealed Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie Symonds, 33, were among 40 guests at a Downing Street party back in May 2020.

Speaking about Lord Geidt’s role, Mr Peston said: “That is an extraordinary thing about the system, isn’t it?

“That in the end, you know, you’ve got a disciplinary system for the civil service and his Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds will be very anxious that he may well get the boot and Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, may decide to give him the boot.”

Mr Case, 43, also faced criticism last month after he stepped aside from investigating whether Downing Street parties broke COVID-19 rules when it was revealed he attended a drinks event in December 2020.

Despite the backlash, the Cabinet Secretary has been tasked with overseeing any disciplinary action arising from the investigation.

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Mr Peston also explained how important the Prime Minister’s role is in granting Lord Geidt authority.

He said: “But when it comes to the punishment that is appropriate for the Prime Minister, the person who decides is the Prime Minister.”

Tory MP Caroline Nokes, 49, responded by saying: “Absolutely, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see Sue [Gray] refer the evidence that she finds to Lord Geidt, who of course is the independent adviser.”

However, Mr Peston interjected: “But she can’t refer it to Lord Geidt.

“Only again, under the rules, the only person who can refer something to Lord Geidt is the Prime Minister, again.”

Ms Nokes replied: “Yes, so she might suggest that the Prime Minister refer himself to Lord Geidt but we seem to be in an interesting circle there, don’t we?”

Ex-Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, 70, added: “Lord Geidt can’t investigate anything without the agreement and permission of the Prime Minister.”

But Peston yet again stressed how the Prime Minister had an integral role in Lord Geidt’s work.

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He said: “And so, at the end of the day, there is a massive conflict of interest there, isn’t there for the Prime Minister?”

Peston then asked: “I mean is he going to sack himself?

Ms Nokes, who supported Theresa May, 65, for Tory leader in 2016 and then backed Sajid Javid, 52, in the 2019 race, said: “Well, I’d be astonished if he did.”

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