Johnson accused of ‘clear breach’ of rules by taking up Daily Mail job
Boris Johnson has been accused of committing a “clear breach” of the ministerial rules by only informing the appointments watchdog of his new role as a Daily Mail columnist half an hour before the public announcement.
The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) wrote to the former prime minister on Friday demanding an explanation in the latest claim that he has broken the standards expected of office.
Mr Johnson landed the job a day after he became the first ever former prime minister to be found to have lied to the Commons in the publication of the damning report into his partygate denials.
Friday’s Daily Mail used its front page to bill an “erudite” new columnist who will be “required reading in Westminster”.
Shortly after 1pm the newspaper tweeted a video confirming Mr Johnson’s appointment, featuring him saying: “It’s going to be exactly what I think.”
Although he quipped he will only cover politics when “I absolutely have to”, the column gives him a powerful platform to take shots at Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with whom he has been publicly clashing.
The ministerial code requires those who have left the Government in the last two years to apply to the independent watchdog for advice on taking up a new appointment or role.
But Acoba, chaired by Tory peer Lord Eric Pickles, was clear that Mr Johnson’s last-minute declaration was a breach of the rules.
A spokeswoman said: “The ministerial code states that ministers must ensure that no new appointments are announced, or taken up, before the committee has been able to provide its advice.
“An application received 30 mins before an appointment is announced is a clear breach.
“We have written to Mr Johnson for an explanation and will publish correspondence in due course, in line with our policy of transparency.”
The Acoba rules are in place to avoid suspicion that an appointment might be a reward for past favours and to mitigate a risk a minister could exploit privileged access to Government contacts.
But the watchdog is frequently accused of being “toothless” because it cannot impose sanctions.
A spokesman for the former prime minister said: “Boris Johnson is in touch with Acoba and the normal process is being followed.”
On Friday, the right-leaning newspaper said it is “delighted” to welcome “one of the wittiest and most original writers in the business”.
In a video shared alongside the announcement, Mr Johnson said he is “thrilled” to contribute to “those illustrious pages”, and promised to deliver “completely unexpurgated stuff”.
Mr Johnson’s column will appear in the paper every Saturday.
There has been speculation about whether Mr Johnson would return to his journalism roots after he dramatically quit as an MP last week ahead of a report that found he lied to Parliament with his denials of lockdown rule-breaking in No 10.
Before he became party leader, Mr Johnson received a £275,000 salary to write for the Telegraph, which will likely pale in comparison to the sum he will pocket as a former premier.
The former Tory leader joins the ranks of his staunch ally Nadine Dorries, who writes a weekly Tuesday column for the Daily Mail.
The former culture secretary, who has also announced her exit from the Commons, used her most recent piece to suggest “sinister forces” were behind the decision to exclude her from Mr Johnson’s controversial resignation honours list.
The former long-standing Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre was also once tipped to be on the list but was reportedly removed during the House of Lords vetting process.
On Thursday, Mr Johnson was found to have deliberately misled MPs with his partygate denials in a report by the Privileges Committee.
They said a series of offences merited a 90-day suspension from the House and recommended he should be blocked from holding the pass to Parliament that former MPs are granted.
Mr Johnson dismissed the report by the cross-party committee, which he claims is a “kangaroo court”, as “deranged”.
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