Flat controversy is 'farrago of nonsense' PM insists

Boris Johnson says furore around flat refurb is ‘farrago of nonsense’ - and defends John Lewis

Prime minister refuses to commit to publishing the findings of investigation into the controversy

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
@Rob_Merrick
Thursday 29 April 2021 14:43
comments

Boris Johnson has attacked the controversy over his lavish flat makeover as a “farrago of nonsense” – and insisted he “loves John Lewis”.

But the prime minister again refused to commit to publishing the findings of his new adviser’s investigation into the affair – despite criticism that he is making himself “judge and jury”.

“I’m sure he will do an outstanding job,” Mr Johnson said, of the probe to be carried out by Christopher Geidt, the adviser on ministerial interests.

And he claimed: “I think what people are focused on overwhelmingly is not that kind of issue, but on what we are doing to take this country through the pandemic.”

The prime minister, and his fiancée Carrie Symonds, have been accused of snobbery over their apparent determination to rid their flat of its “John Lewis nightmare” – inherited from Theresa May.

But he said that was the aspect he most objected to in what he described as “this whole farrago of nonsense” about the redecorations and who paid for them.

Asked what was “wrong with John Lewis”, Mr Johnson replied “absolutely nothing”, before adding: “I love John Lewis!”

The prime minister faced fresh questions, on a school visit, after the Electoral Commission launched a formal investigation into the refurbishment, saying “an offence or offences may have occurred”.

It followed days of Mr Johnson, and other ministers, failing to deny that the Conservative Party, or a Tory donor, originally funded the costly redecoration.

It is believed the party secretly approved paying a £58,000 bill as long as nine months ago – a payment then covered by a wealthy donor, according to a leaked email.

On the Commission investigation, the prime minister said: “We will comply with whatever they want, and I don’t think there is anything to see here, or worry about.”

He also insisted the public “will understand” massive overseas aid cuts – after it emerged the UK’s contribution to a UN sexual and reproductive health agency has been slashed by an astonishing 85 per cent.

“We’re still spending £10bn per year on overseas aid, that is a huge amount,” the prime minister argued, on a visit in West London.

“We are still one of the biggest donors in the world and I think people in this country should be very proud of that.

“But I also think that they will understand, and I know that other countries around the world understand, the particular pressures of the pandemic that mean we have to economise in that way.”

Mr Johnson is also under fire for visiting the coronavirus memorial wall, near Parliament, “under the cover of darkness” – allegedly to avoid meeting campaigners for a public inquiry.

His spokesman said: “No, he went on Tuesday evening for a private visit.

“As many others have done, he visited the memorial wall in private for quiet reflection. The prime minister has spoken to a number of families bereaved by Covid, both in person and virtually.”

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