Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
16 June 2022

What does Christopher Geidt’s resignation mean for Labour?

The departure of the Prime Minister’s ethics adviser could hasten the loss of one of the opposition’s best assets: Boris Johnson himself.

By Freddie Hayward

The Prime Minister’s ethics adviser resigned – the second to do so under Boris Johnson – last night (15 June) in opaque circumstances after telling MPs he was “frustrated” with partygate on Tuesday. Christopher Geidt’s public statement said only: “With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as independent adviser on ministers.” Pressure is building on No 10 to publish Geidt’s resignation letter.

It’s a stark reminder that partygate will continue to dog the Prime Minister as the government scrambles to find a platform for the next general election. Indeed, beneath the laboured jokes and tired cultural references, yesterday’s PMQs told us much about where politics is at the moment. With Johnson damaged from the confidence vote last week, the government has tried to shift the political conversation on to three topics: the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda, the government’s threat to rip up the Northern Ireland protocol, and the looming railway strikes. In other words: immigration, Brexit and trade unions.

[See also: The Rwanda plan has failed but it is more dangerous than ever]

Yet those three overarching political stories were barely mentioned at yesterday’s PMQs. Much to Johnson’s exasperation, Starmer used his six questions to ask about the country’s economic woes and the rising cost of living. It was a tug of war over the political narrative, and hinted at each party’s strategy at the next general election. Faced with a deepening cost-of-living crisis and a flagship policy of levelling up that someone involved in its concoction in the 2019 election recently told me is “no more than a slogan”, the government is scrambling to promote issues it thinks will distinguish itself from Labour and distract from the escalating cost of living.

Geidt’s resignation will only encourage the government to double down on those wedge issues. Meanwhile, Labour is trying to slalom between divisive Tory policy announcements and keeping the focus on the government’s failings. One shadow cabinet member said to me this week that all Labour had to do to win the next election was watch the government flounder and crash. As the American pollster Frank Luntz recently told me, “it may be that 13 or 14 years is as long as a government can go now, in which case all Starmer has to do is not screw up – but I never want to wage that campaign”.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Indeed, the risk with such a strategy is that if Tory MPs do depose Johnson, which Geidt’s resignation makes more likely, then Labour will lose one of its main assets. (Another shadow cabinet member characterised partygate to me as “bad for the country; great for us”.) At that point, Labour’s pitch to the public becomes more central to distinguishing itself from Johnson’s inevitably blander and less scandal-prone successor. And promises of probity mixed with a bingo of abstract nouns might not cut it.

Content from our partners
Why public health policy needs to refocus
The five key tech areas for the public sector in 2023
You wouldn’t give your house keys to anyone, so why do that with your computers?

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; subscribe here.

Topics in this article: , ,