Johnson “acts with integrity and honesty and he follows the Nolan principles when conducting himself in public life.”

Allegra Stratton

March 29, 2021

Facts

Former Guardian and Newsnight journalist Allegra Stratton was Downing Street Press Secretary under Prime Minister Johnson from November 2020 to April 2021. In response to allegations concerning Johnson’s affair with Jennifer Arcuri, Allegra Stratton stated that Johnson “acts with integrity and honesty and he follows the Nolan principles when conducting himself in public life.”

"He does believe in the wider principles of integrity and honesty.”

The British state used to be renowned internationally for its integrity. With Johnson in charge that reputation is being swept away. 

Nolan set a number of moral principles which offer the ethical grounding for matters including misleading parliament, MPs' interests, business appointments for former ministers, ministerial accountability, impartiality of the civil service and neutrality of the monarch. 

In each one of these areas, standards are now in collapse under the current Prime Minister. Johnson and the team that surrounds him do not believe that ordinary standards belong to them.

In a carefully written article published in Political Quarterly, Professor Leighton Andrews of the University of Cardiff wrote that:

"The Nolan era is over. Ministers can perform badly but not be sacked. They can mislead Parliament but escape punishment. Cabinet and other ministers can breach collective responsibility with impunity. Details of Cabinet meetings and indeed Cabinet minutes can be leaked without any sanction. Ministers can undermine civil servants without consequence to themselves."

The so-called Nolan Principles enshrine the seven principles of public life. They are: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

During the time of the alleged affair, Johnson had spoken at events organised by Arcuri and she had attended three taxpayer-funded trade missions, while companies she worked for received taxpayer money in sponsorships and grants.

Claims made by Arcuri, who detailed the alleged affair in the Sunday Mirror, have reinvigorated a probe by the Greater London Authority (GLA) – which oversees the London Mayor’s Office – to determine whether Johnson breached the standards of his former role. The charges centre around whether the alleged relationship, any potential misuse of power and Johnson’s failure to report a conflict of interest, could be in violation of the Nolan Principles of Public Life, which outline the moral and ethical principles public servants must abide by.

Verdict

Ms Stratton is an intelligent person and decent human being who had earned a high reputation as a journalist. She must have been aware that by no stretch of the imagination could Boris Johnson be described as someone who “follows the Nolan principles when conducting himself in public life. (The seven Nolan principles are selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership). On this occasion she was lying, conduct that was out of character, and demands explanation. Stratton’s dilemma was similar to many naturally honest people who have found themselves in a position where they are obliged to lie or make misleading statements after choosing to work for Boris Johnson.

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