World, Europe

Johnson denies any offence in flat renovation funding

Denial comes as Electoral Commission launches probe to determine how expensive refurbishment was funded

Muhammad Mussa   | 28.04.2021
Johnson denies any offence in flat renovation funding


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday denied committing any offence in getting his Downing Street flat refurbished.

Johnson’s denials came after the Electoral Commission announced it would investigate the matter as there were "reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred” in the period when the prime minister and his fiancee Carrie Symonds renovated their residence.

A fiery exchange between the prime minister and leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, erupted during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Question Time in parliament when Starmer accused the government and Johnson himself of being "mired in sleaze, cronyism and scandal.”

The opposition head repeatedly queried the premier on who paid for the renovations.

"The answer is I have covered the costs. I conformed in full with the code of conduct and officials have kept advising me through this whole thing,” Johnson said, criticizing Starmer’s continued focus on the matter and diverting the question to explain his government’s plans on improving the standard of living in the UK.

Despite repeatedly insisting he covered the costs of the refurbishment, Johnson did not answer Starmer’s question in full and failed to explain the original source of the funds and whether this source was a Tory donor or the party itself.

Earlier, the Electoral Commission said it had been in contact with the Tory Party since March over the issue and that it has launched an investigation to determine whether transactions related to the refurbishment fall within the regime regulated by the commission and whether such funding was reported as required.

Last week, Johnson’s former chief adviser and ally Dominic Cummings accused his former boss of trying to silence and destroy a leak inquiry into the use of Conservative Party donations to refurbish Johnson’s Downing Street apartment.

“It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves,” Cummings said on his blog, adding that he warned Johnson about using party donations for personal use.

“I told him I thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended,” he said.

The explosive revelations have forced the government on the defensive with mounting calls from the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party for a public inquiry into Johnson’s refurbishment plans as well as his dealings with Dyson.

Cummings has confirmed he will provide evidence to a parliamentary committee next month, evidence that amounts to a trove of materials, including tape recordings collected during his time at Downing Street.

Accusations of sleaze also follow the Greensill scandal in which former Prime Minister David Cameron lobbied the government in 2018 on behalf of the now-defunct financial services company Greensill Capital for a loan scheme that was funded by tax payers money.

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