At first glance Boris Johnson’s new adviser on ministerial conduct, the right honourable Lord Christopher Geidt, GCB, GCVO, OBE, QSO, PC, FKC, might be thought to look and sound like just the sort of Establishment patsy that can be relied upon to be helpful to a Tory premier, and, even if he is not, to be easily manipulated by the unscrupulous type of character that usually tends to end up being tenant at 10 Downing Street. Or it could simply be that Johnson cares so little for the basically toothless role and what it represents that he doesn’t care who does the job and was happy to accept the suggestion of Geidt, very possibly made by the cabinet secretary, Simon Case. Case held a similar position with the Cambridges, and might have thought Geidt would be a useful ally in the internal struggle for sanity. Either way, it was Johnson’s own decision to appoint Geidt, and he may live to regret it. Geidt, 60 in August, is hardly one of nature’s troublemakers, but he is perhaps more experienced, independent-minded, astute and principled than Johnson would like. Case, a younger, less weathered figure, seems more beholden to the PM, on the basis of his hesitant performance to MPs on the public administration committee last week. Cabinet secretaries used to intimidate their prime ministers, but perhaps no more. Geidt may thus add some much-needed heft to the official contingent in Downing Street: Put it this way, he’s dealt with the likes of Slobodan Milosevic and the Duke of York in his time, so he’s probably ready for Bozza.
For sure, Geidt is a typical product of the British class system, the kind of chap you’d expect to end up serving as the private secretary to the Queen for a decade. His upper-middle-class family have a long history of public service in the army and the British Raj in India, and his father, Mervyn, was a QC and magistrates court chief clerk. Funnily enough a cousin, Jeremy Geidt, formed with John Bird, John Fortune and Eleanor Brown a travelling theatrical company of satirists in the early 1960s called The Establishment, in which the monarchy was gently lampooned. The Establishment can have a sense of humour, evidently.
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