Johnson must be acquitted of violating the rules for renovating Downing St.

Boris Johnson is ready to be acquitted of violating the ministerial code of an internal Whitehall investigation into a loan to renovate his Downing Street home, but his behavior will be criticized, according to senior officials.

Lord Christopher Geidt, the independent adviser to ministers’ interests, has in recent weeks exchanged a series of letters with the prime minister over further revelations about a £ 58,000 donation from Lord David Brownlow to renovate Johnson’s 11th apartment in Downing Street.

Although Geidt has previously acquitted Johnson of violating the Ministerial Act due to allegations of soliciting a donation from Brownlow, a recent investigation by the Election Commission revealed WhatsApp messages between Brownlow and Johnson.

Geidt has since reconsidered his initial investigation to see if he was misled by Johnson when the prime minister said he did not request a donation from Brownlow. Government insiders said Geidt had now seen all relevant WhatsApp messages.

The inquiry has been closely monitored by Johnson’s allies, who feared it could prompt further inquiries by Parliamentary Standard Commissioner Kathryn Stone. One said, “Boris wants all the flat stuff to be solved. But the investigation can give him all sorts of problems.”

Lord Christopher Geidt is the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests © Dominik Lipinski / PA

According to several Whitehall officials with knowledge of Geidt’s latest investigation, “three to four” letters have been exchanged with number 10, which may be published in the new year.

Johnson’s behavior is set to be “criticized”, according to those with knowledge of the investigation, with Geidt describing the situation to colleagues as “deeply unsatisfactory”.

A senior official said: “Geidt makes it clear that the situation is a total mess. But at the same time, the basic conclusion is that the Prime Minister did not deceive and did not break the Ministerial Act.”

Downing Street declined to comment.

The cabinet office, where Geidt’s office is based, said: “We do not comment on speculation”.

Insiders said much of the blame for the lack of clarity over the donation has been shifted by Johnson and Geidt to the process surrounding Geidt’s first investigation of the flat loan. “Reasons have been put forward as to why certain details, such as WhatsApp messages, were not made. He has gone back over the initial report in great detail,” an insider said.

Another Whitehall official said of the inquiry: “There is enough in those letters to raise eyebrows. The Prime Minister has apologized for some of the circumstances surrounding the initial inquiry which Lord Geidt has accepted.

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labor Party, urged Geidt to publish “all his correspondence” with Johnson about the flat donation “as a first step towards providing full transparency”.

“After the Electoral Commission ruled that the Conservative Party broke the law on declaring donations, the Prime Minister has mocked the standards that the public has a right to expect,” she said.

Instead of sanctions, Geidt and Johnson have agreed to reform the system of overseeing ministerial interests, including allocating more resources to the relevant secretariat of the Cabinet Office.

An ally of Geidt said: “He has pointed out that the independent commissioner must be above reproach and should always have facts.”

A separate investigation is underway into allegations of parties held across Whitehall that broke coronavirus restrictions, led by senior official Sue Gray. She is expected to complete her investigation early in the new year following interviews with senior number 10 officials and special advisers.

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