Boris Johnson committed a “clear and unambiguous” breach of the rules on post-ministerial jobs after taking up a role as a columnist at the Daily Mail, a watchdog has ruled.
The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, known as Acoba, revealed today that the former prime minister only asked them for advice on the position 30 minutes before the newspaper announced his new column on Twitter.
But the rules state former ministers should neither announce nor take up jobs before receiving advice from the committee for two years after leaving office.
Politics live: Senior Tory says Rwanda plan is ‘very difficult to justify’
The chair of Acoba and former Tory MP, Lord Pickles, said the case was a “further illustration of how out of date” the rules were, as the committee could no longer rely on the “good chaps” precedent – where ministers observed “the letter and spirit of the rules”.
In a letter to Cabinet Office Secretary Oliver Dowden, the chair called for sanctions to be introduced for breaches, and while he acknowledged the department was working on a range of proposals, he added: “I am concerned that if the government waits until these reforms can be implemented together, it risks further scandals in the meantime.”
Mr Johnson announced he was standing down as an MP on 10 June after receiving a report from the privileges committee, which found he had lied to parliament over lockdown breaking parties in Downing Street when he was PM.
A week later, reports surfaced in the media that he was going to start a weekly column for the Daily Mail.
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
Theresa May was among those who backed the partygate report into Mr Johnson, which prompted his departure from the Commons Acoba has published correspondence between the committee and Mr Johnson’s team, showing he had only applied for advice from them after the news stories had surfaced and exactly 30 minutes before the newspaper announced his appointment.
The former PM then wrote to them at 4:41pm saying he had written his first column, “though at this moment it has not yet been published”, adding: “I have not yet signed any contract or been paid.
“If you have any objection to my signing a contract in the next few weeks perhaps you could let me know. I would appreciate an urgent reply.”
However, before the committee had responded, Mr Johnson himself took to Twitter, posting a video about his new job.
He has written two columns for the newspaper so far, though neither focuses on politics. Instead, he has written about a weight loss drug and the Titanic sub.