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Lord Geidt is a serious person not to be trifled with. During the Bosnian war in the early 1990s and in the aftermath of that horror, he negotiated with the Bosnian Serb leadership. Later, Radovan Karadžić and General Ratko Mladić were indicted for war crimes. After his army and diplomatic career – he had joined the Scots Guards following Trinity Hall, Cambridge and KCL – he worked for the Queen. He was the monarch’s private secretary from 2007-2017.

Having appointed him as his ethics adviser, or the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, this is someone the Prime Minister should have been extremely careful not to fall out with. But that is what happened when Geidt investigated the bafflingly expensive and unnecessarily plush renovation of the Downing Street flat.

Boris assured Geidt that he hadn’t been asking around for cash. Geidt published his investigation in good faith on that basis.

Actually, Johnson had sent Lord Brownlow, a Tory donor, a WhatsApp message in November 2020 seeking additional money from the trust set up to fund the work. 

Yet the Electoral Commission has since established that in May this year, Lord Geidt was assured by Johnson he knew nothing about such payments – “until immediately prior to media reports in February 2021”.

If Geidt says publicly he has been misled by the current PM, or resigns as he might, then the pressure for Boris Johnson to resign himself will be intense. Geidt has been in talks with Number 10, it has been reported in recent days.

Geidt is unhappy. But what will he do? If he pulls the trigger it could finish Johnson within days. Or will the row be parked and quietly forgotten until after Christmas?

There’s an added dimension. The Queen question. The PM who made the monarch mourn alone at the funeral of her husband, an experience replicated in many families across the land, has been caught out misleading her former private secretary.

With the intense focus this week on Covid restrictions, Tory rebellion and the Omicron wave, the Geidt factor has been somewhat overlooked in recent days.

“Geidt has Boris by the balls,” says a Tory MP.