Truss will be no more honest than Johnson, Bryant warns

The Standards Committee chairman said he has no faith in Liz Truss being a more honest Prime Minister than her predecessor, as he warned Boris Johnson has caused “long-term damage” to Britain’s reputation.

Labour MP Chris Bryant branded the former leader a “disgrace”, but said he does not think Ms Truss will be any better “on the lying front”, citing his scepticism over whether she raised issues of human rights in talks with Gulf State leaders.

Mr Bryant warned against a system whereby “the winner takes it all”, with the Prime Minister currently free to decide whether their ethics chief – if they appoint one – should launch investigations into potential breaches of the ministerial code.

It is still not clear whether Ms Truss will replace Lord Geidt, the previous adviser on ministers’ interests, after he quit the role in June.

Downing Street said earlier this month the Prime Minister was still considering whether to appoint a direct successor.

Speaking at a Labour fringe event on standards in public life hosted by the Institute for Government, Mr Bryant said Mr Johnson did “a lot of long-term damage to Britain’s reputation and to the reputation of politics in general”.

Chris Bryant
Standards Committee chairman Chris Bryant (Rick Findler/PA)

“And that matters to me because if people don’t believe in the political system and in democracy, then I have no means of doing the things that I want to do in terms of changing the world to make it a better place in the way that I understand,” he said.

Thangam Debbonaire, Labour’s shadow leader of the House of Commons, also said Mr Johnson had been “casual with the truth”.

But Mr Bryant said: “I think Liz Truss is not going to be any better than Boris Johnson on the lying front.

“She sat in front of the Foreign Affairs Committee and said: ‘I personally raised human rights issues… when I was in the Gulf.’

“The Foreign Affairs Committee last week published the reply from the Foreign Office, which was meant to be clearing up what she’d said, and there’s not a single instance that she’s done so – either personally or impersonally.”

Mr Bryant argued that the Government is currently granted “far too much power”, adding: “It’s a bit ‘winner takes it all’.”

Boris Johnson
Former prime minister Boris Johnson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“Once you get to the Prime Minister, basically, as long as you can maintain your majority in the House of Commons, you can do pretty much anything,” he said.

Ms Debbonaire also accused Mr Johnson of inflicting “lasting damage” during his tenure.

“I’ve found it incredibly frustrating that for the last two years we’ve had a tone set from the top that says: ‘Actually, the rules don’t matter,'” she said.

Questions were repeatedly asked about the former prime minister’s integrity during his time in the top job.

While he survived scandals over former chief aide Dominic Cummings’ infamous Barnard Castle trip during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the subsequent parties in Whitehall as Britons were locked down, and the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat which prompted the resignation of his ethics adviser, it was misconduct allegations against former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher that proved the final straw for Mr Johnson in July.

A Conservative source questioned whether Mr Bryant should be accusing others of dishonesty after the High Court heard he accepted he had made “disproved” allegations against businessman Christopher Chandler.

In July, Adrienne Page KC, for Mr Chandler, said Mr Bryant had paid £1,000 to the UN’s crisis relief fund for Ukraine in lieu of damages.

Mr Johnson has been approached for comment.