Boris Johnson faces formal investigation over funding of apartment renovation

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Boris Johnson faces formal investigation over funding of apartment renovation
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden
Publishing date:Apr 28, 2021 • 3 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly PMQ's April 28, 2021 in London, England.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly PMQ's April 28, 2021 in London, England. PHOTO BY DAN KITWOOD /Getty Images
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LONDON — Britain’s Electoral Commission opened a formal investigation into the financing of the refurbishment of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street apartment, saying there were grounds to suspect an offense may have been committed.

Eight days before local elections across England, as well as the election of the Welsh and Scottish regional assemblies, Johnson is facing a stream of allegations about everything from his muddled initial handling of the COVID-19 crisis to questions about who leaked what from his office.


“We are now satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offense or offenses may have occurred,” the Electoral Commission said of the financing of the apartment above Number 11 Downing Street where Johnson resides.

“We will therefore continue this work as a formal investigation to establish whether this is the case,” the commission said.

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The investigation will determine whether any transactions relating to the works fall within the regime regulated by the commission and whether such funding was reported as required.


If it finds that an offense has occurred – and that there is sufficient evidence – then the commission can issue a fine or refer the matter to the police.

Asked last month about the refurbishment, Johnson’s spokeswoman said all donations, gifts and benefits were properly declared, and that no Conservative Party funds were being used to pay for the refurbishment.

Though Johnson has over the years repeatedly weathered gaffes, crises over Brexit and disclosures about his adultery, he is now grappling with an array of accusations which opponents say show he is unfit for office.

The opposition says the allegations show Johnson’s government is riddled by sleaze and cronyism, including lobbying by former Prime Minister David Cameron on behalf of the finance company Greensill Capital.

His supporters deny he has done anything wrong and say he is focused on the COVID-19 crisis.

Numbers 11 (L) and 10 (R) Downing Street are pictured in central London on April 28, 2021.
Numbers 11 (L) and 10 (R) Downing Street are pictured in central London on April 28, 2021. PHOTO BY JUSTIN TALLIS /AFP via Getty Images
DOWNING STREET APARTMENT

Johnson has a taxpayer-funded 30,000 pound ($42,000) allowance each year for maintaining and furnishing his official residence, but anything above that must be met by the prime minister.

Ministers have said Johnson has paid for the work himself, but it is unclear when he paid, and whether the refurbishment, reported to have cost 200,000 pounds ($280,000) was initially financed by a loan of some kind. Under political financing rules, Johnson would have been required to declare this.

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Critics say that if the funds had come originally from a Conservative Party supporter, this would raise the question of influence-peddling. The opposition Labour Party has demanded an explanation.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner wrote to Simon Case, the head of the civil service, asking him to investigate answers about the affair given by Johnson’s then-press secretary earlier this year. Allegra Stratton, a former BBC journalist, was Johnson’s press secretary from October until last week.

Dominic Cummings, who was Johnson’s key adviser on the Brexit campaign and helped him to win an election in 2019 before an acrimonious split last year, said on Friday that Johnson had wanted donors to pay for the renovation secretly.


Cummings said he had told the prime minister such plans were “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal.”

Asked if Johnson had received a loan from the Conservative Party for the refurbishment, transport minister Grant Shapps told Sky News: “The prime minister has already paid for it.”

In a further potentially damaging allegation, the Daily Mail newspaper on Sunday cited unidentified sources as saying that, in October, shortly after agreeing to a second lockdown, Johnson had told a meeting in Downing Street: “No more fucking lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands.”

Asked on Monday whether he had made the remark, Johnson told broadcasters: “No, but again, I think the important thing, I think, that people want us to get on and do as a government is to make sure that the lockdowns work, and they have.”
 

Blackleaf

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Just the Lefties out to get him. I think it's too much bother about nothing. Unless he resigns for some reason, he'll win the 2024 election at a canter. He has a massive lead over Starmer in the polls.
 

spaminator

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Boris Johnson faces more questions over personal spending
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Guy Faulconbridge
Publishing date:May 02, 2021 • 18 minutes ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
A handout photograph released by the U.K. Parliament shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending the weekly Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons in London, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.
A handout photograph released by the U.K. Parliament shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending the weekly Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons in London, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. PHOTO BY JESSICA TAYLOR / U.K. PARLIAMENT /AFP via Getty Images
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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced more allegations on Sunday about his expenditure on the refurbishment of his apartment and on childcare for his young son, which his foreign minister dismissed as baseless gossip.

Johnson has repeatedly weathered gaffes, crises over Brexit and disclosures of his adultery, but the revelation that he and his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, spent lavishly to redecorate their residence with a designer feted by royalty has touched a nerve.

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One of the leaders of the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union, Johnson is grappling with a stream of allegations about both his expenditure and the management of his core team at the center of the British government that opponents say show he is unfit for office.


Johnson has repeatedly said that he paid for the refurbishment of his Downing Street apartment, but the Electoral Commission says it has grounds to suspect an offense has been committed in the funding of the work.

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The Sunday Times said the total cost of the work was around 200,000 pounds ($276,000) and that one invoice was settled by a Conservative Party donor directly – a benefit-in-kind that would need to be declared to tax authorities.

The newspaper also reported that a Conservative Party donor had been asked to pay for a nanny for Johnson’s young son, Wilfred.

“I don’t mind paying for leaflets but I resent being asked to pay to literally wipe the prime minister’s baby’s bottom,” the unidentified donor was quoted as saying.

Johnson’s Downing Street office did not address the reported refurbishment costs, but said in a statement: “The Prime Minister has covered the costs of all childcare.”

The Conservative Party declined to comment on the report.


Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declined to answer directly who initially paid for the work and said he had “no idea” if a donor had been asked to pay for Johnson’s childcare.

“The last issue you asked about is an example of tittle tattle,” Raab told Sky TV. He said Johnson had been “crystal clear” about the expenditure on the refurbishment of the apartment.

Before local elections on Thursday across most of Britain, some opinion surveys show Johnson’s ratings have dipped. His party also faces a parliamentary by-election in Hartlepool, northern England, which the opposition Labour Party has controlled for decades.

Such is uproar over the cost of the Downing Street refurbishment that Johnson last week even expressed his “love” for John Lewis, a retailer adored by millions of British voters.

Tatler magazine had cited an unidentified source as saying the work had improved the apartment after the “John Lewis furniture nightmare” inherited from former Prime Minister Theresa May.