Boris Johnson ‘allergic to truth,’ says Labour – as Tory HQ finally reveals how donor paid toward flat refurb

Conservative HQ sets out details of ‘bridging loan’

Adam Forrest
Thursday 26 August 2021 15:22
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Related video: Can Boris Johnson weather the storm of sleaze allegations?

Labour has accused Boris Johnson of being “allergic to the truth” after the Conservatives finally revealed the complex process used to pay for lavish renovations at his Downing Street flat.

A Tory donor provided more than £52,000 to cover some of the costs in refurbishing the prime minister’s residence, according to party accounts published on Thursday.

Tory HQ said it initially provided a “bridging loan” of £52,802 to cover the works after being invoiced by the Cabinet Office last June.

The party was then “reimbursed in full” by Lord Brownlow last October, before Mr Johnson “settled the costs” incurred by the donor in March 2021 – but only after details had emerged in the press in February.

No 10 repeatedly refused to reveal the original source of funds for the work, initially insisting that Mr Johnson alone had “covered the cost”.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner responded: “These latest revelations prove that the prime minister appears to be allergic to telling the truth about the dodgy dealings and the web of conflicts of interests, secret loans and cover-ups that hang over him like a bad smell.”

Revealing the details on page 25 of the 26-page accounts, the Conservatives pointed to a review by the prime minister’s own ministerial standards adviser, Lord Geidt.

He found Mr Johnson acted “unwisely” in allowing the refurbishment to go ahead without “more rigorous regard for how this would be funded,” but did not breach the ministerial code.

A Cabinet Office report in July said more than £28,000 was spent on painting and sanding floorboards – coming close to the £30,000 limit of public funding. But it also mentioned “additional invoices” for work carried out by Soane Britain, owned by interior designer Lulu Lytle.

The bill for the extra work was paid by the Cabinet Office, before it was billed to the Conservative Party, before Lord Brownlow reimbursed the party, before Mr Johnson met “all final costs”, according to Tory HQ’s latest annual report.

Dominic Cummings, former chief adviser at No 10, alleged that Mr Johnson had planned to have try to get donors to “secretly pay” for the refurbishments in an “unethical, foolish” and “possibly illegal” plan, which No 10 has denied.

A Tory spokesman said: “As stated, the party provided a short-term bridging loan that was reimbursed to the party in full.”

Meanwhile, Labour has written to the Electoral Commission to demand an investigation into the prime minister’s use of a taxpayer-funded jet to travel to the north-east for a campaign visit.

Questions were raised over Mr Johnson’s April visit to Hartlepool to campaign for the Tory candidate, after it emerged that the Conservative Party recorded “nil” spending on the PM’s travel despite him having flown by jet from London to Teesside Airport.

No 10 and the Conservatives insist no rules were broken, since the jet was used to fly Mr Johnson to the northeast for an official visit to Middlesbrough, while the PM travelled from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool in his official car.

Ms Rayner said: “The questions hanging over ‘flatgate’ make it even more important that a full investigation into the prime minister’s SleazyJet flights is begun immediately so we get to the bottom of whether any rules and laws were broken, and if a Tory donor has secretly been picking up the tab for the prime minister’s private jet too.”

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