Starmer says Johnson spent time in the pandemic ‘nipping out of meetings’ to pick out wallpaper

The wallpaper is closing in on Boris Johnson – no wonder he’s so angry

The PM probably has nothing to hide about the Downing Street flat scandal. And nothing screams ‘nothing to hide’ quite like shouting about absolutely any subject other than the one you’ve been asked about

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
@tompeck
Wednesday 28 April 2021 16:42
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“James Dyson! Kate Bingham! The European Medicines Agency! The Labour front bench! 10,000 nurses! 8,771 police officers! The European Super League! Serious sexual and violent criminals! The people of this country! The people of India!”

When asked, for a fifth time, who initially paid for a six-figure refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s private Downing Street flat, these are just a few of the names that featured in his 140 second long shouty word soup of an answer. So it is hardly surprising there are now not one but two, and quite possibly, three official inquiries into the matter.

You’d think such an inquiry would be simple. All you have to do is go up to Boris Johnson and say, “We know you’ve settled the bill now, because you’ve been told you have to, but who paid for it in the first place? Who paid the initial bill?” But Keir Starmer did that, five times, on live television across the despatch box of the House of Commons and by the end of the prime minister’s five non-answers, he had managed to implicate somewhere in the region of 20 per cent of the globe.

Of course, Boris Johnson probably has nothing to hide. And nothing screams “nothing to hide” quite like screaming about absolutely any subject you can think of apart from the one you’ve been asked about.

When the question you won’t answer – who initially paid for the refurbishment – has been on the front page of almost all the newspapers every day this week, what better way to answer it than to get the European Medicines Agency involved? So who did initially pay for it? “The Brexit deal which he voted against! Our friends in the European Union! The fastest vaccine rollout in Europe!”

It went on like this for some time, his eyes flashing, his upper lip protuberant. It has already been said by many that they have never seen the man this angry. Angry, perhaps, because this time he really has been found out, he really is on the ropes. Back when tens of thousands of people were dying as a direct result of his inaction, he was never short of a laugh or a joke. There was, for example, the one about the ventilator challenge, which he jovially christened, Operation Last Gasp.

But it’s serious now. No laughing matter. This business with the Downing Street flat, this has the potential to actually affect not just the ordinary people but Boris Johnson himself. No wonder he’s so angry about it.

He is, it is very often said, an incredibly lucky politician. But he’s not been so lucky here. One brings the other woman into it with a certain degree of reluctance. Powerful people should be held accountable for their actions by themselves. But it does appear to be Ms Symonds’s rather expensive tastes that have landed him in this rather large mess. And you would think, perhaps, when beginning first an affair and subsequently a relationship with someone you met when they were working as the Conservative Party’s head of press, that they might have a strong enough eye for a potential story to consider just not spending £800 they don’t have on a roll of wallpaper.

He was also lucky, from 2016, to find Dominic Cummings on his side. But things have changed now, and as things stand, it may very well be that his luck is running out.

Last November, there was considerable hilarity around Westminster at a suggestion made by a Downing Street member of staff, that Cummings had taken to pulling the pin out of an imaginary grenade and throwing it over his shoulder as he left the room.

There is surely no more clear indication of the madness of the times in which we live that anyone could ever come to find that kind of behaviour actually vindicated.

The grenades are coming now, thick and fast. And Boris Johnson may just find out that even with James Dyson, Kate Bingham, the European Super League and the rest, there just aren’t going to be enough people around for him to throw on top of them.

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