How have they spent £200,000 on improving a flat? Did they hire Beyoncé to fix the electrics? Is the table a panda? Are the bathroom tiles made from Arsenal season tickets? Instead of a doorbell, do they have a live opera singer, who you press on the nose and they sing the opening bars of The Magic Flute? Is the kitchen plastered with roquefort cheese, bought from a farmers’ market?
Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds had to redecorate the Downing Street flat, we understand, because it was a “John Lewis furniture nightmare”. Because John Lewis is slumming it. John Lewis is like a charity jumble sale – tatty chandeliers and Chesterfield sofas scattered about, while little old ladies make you a cup of tea for 20p or 30p including a Digestive biscuit, as you sneer your way past the sort of rugs nurses may aspire to, the scum, but hardly the sort of thing for a man with enough power to decide whether bodies should be piled up high to walk on. Would Alexander the Great have fitted his toilet with tat from John Lewis?
The columnist Sarah Vine said the couple were entitled to a redesigned flat because “the prime minister can’t be expected to live in a skip”. And the first sign that someone’s living in a skip is that they’re surrounded by stuff from John Lewis. Maybe there should have been a charity appeal, on just before the news, where Joanna Lumley said: “My heart was torn apart by these poor wretched souls, compelled to live among this matching pair of Munari bedside lamps and a Chester Dove Grey wine console, the only wine console they possess. Please, please give what you can, so they can at least afford a bespoke kitchen cabinet hand-woven from emu feathers.”
A “friend” has been quoted as saying that Carrie’s done a marvellous job with the interior design, and that “she should be congratulated, not criticised” for spending money on a flat that only she and her fiancé can use. It’s the same when you’re burgled. The robbers might sell your television and laptop to someone who arranges them neatly near some pretty colours, in which case you should send them a card thanking them.
When the payment for this work was questioned, the couple did what anyone would do when you’ve overspent by £60,000 – they got the bill paid by a Lord. I was the same on the day I was drunk and accidentally bought a hovercraft. The bill came through, so I popped it round to the 9th Earl of Gloucester who didn’t mind at all.
The prime minister seems furious about all these questions he’s facing, probably because he knows every day he does something far worse than redecorate a flat while expecting someone else to pay. If he was brought down over this, he’d be like an actor who spent all his life playing Hamlet, but went down in history as the man in the advert for webuyanycar.com.
But he should be proud of his achievements. Because not everybody can be so untrustworthy that it makes sense when the person who says you “lack integrity” is famous for claiming on live television that he had to drive up the motorway to check his eyes. To be accused of lacking integrity by Dominic Cummings is up there with the highest accolades of scuzziness, like Tony Blair saying you had a manic stare, or Jacob Rees-Mogg calling you a stuck-up ponce.
Boris Johnson’s supporters claim this business about the flat is a distraction from what’s important. And they have a point, so I expect Matt Hancock will appear soon to say: “This nonsense is distracting everyone from things we’ve done that are so much worse than this, such as all the contracts we handed out to mates to supply stuff they were incapable of supplying. We’ve wasted billions, I don’t see why there’s a fuss about a posh settee.”
They’re in a fascinating puzzle with Cummings. Because either he’s someone you can trust, as Boris Johnson told us after the eyesight day, in which case the stories he’s now telling about Johnson are true. Or Cummings can’t be trusted, in which case Johnson must have only just worked this out. In that case he must be holding his head in his hands and gasping: “Oh my God, maybe he made up that other stuff as well? Maybe he WASN’T checking his eyes. Oh no, you don’t think that line about the £350m a day for the NHS was made up do you? I feel such a fool.”
But one way they could both restore credibility, and maybe even make a quick buck, is to market this fight between Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson. These appear to be the two greatest liars in the country, seemingly incapable of telling the truth even when there’s no advantage to telling a lie. And now they’re in combat, it’s like Anthony Joshua versus Tyson Fury. This contest should be at Wembley arena, and sold on Sky pay per view for £19.95.
Cummings will strike first by insisting Johnson has a secret Inuit slave who caters for a fetish about igloos that developed after that time he hid in a fridge. Johnson will declare he’s never seen a fridge, and move on to the attack by shouting that Cummings stole the Brexit bus with “£350m for the NHS” on the side, and drove it through his Downing Street flat, which is why it needed redecorating. Cummings will answer that taking the bus proves his eyes were bad, as he thought he was on an electric scooter. And it will go on for several days, until they can pay back all the Lords they need to.
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