I.This year everything should be different, but “Wallpapergate” won’t let Boris Johnson rest in January either. The Downing Street apartment renovation affair has continued since text messages the Prime Minister exchanged with a party donor in November 2020 were released. These not only corroborate the suspicion that Johnson – contrary to his statements – knew how the renovation was financed. You give reason, at least to the opposition, to suspect that the financier, Lord Brownlow, was rewarded with political courtesy.
British Prime Ministers have £ 30,000 a year to keep their official housing aesthetically pleasing. By the end of 2020 at the latest, it was clear to Johnson and his current wife, Carrie, that their renovation would far exceed this amount. In order to be able to pay the more than 110,000 pound bill, which was not least due to the employment of the star designer Lulu Lytle, the establishment of a foundation was considered. Because the operation was dragging on and the couple had already placed contracts, Brownlow, who was supposed to run the foundation, began paying the bills out of pocket.
According to media reports, Johnson had his “ethics advisor” Lord Geidt review the matter. That ended last spring with a declaration of no objection. At the same time, the electoral commission leaned over the case. At least she saw the electoral law violated because of covert party funding and ordered the Tories to pay a fine. As part of this investigation, private text messages came to light that challenged Geidt’s finding that Johnson was ignorant of the funding. Johnson had asked Brownlow directly via Whatsapp.
These text messages are now available in full. Parts of his apartment resembled a “dump,” Johnson wrote at the time, asking Brownlow if Lulu Lytle could contact him to vote so that the renovation could continue. In the end, Johnson wrote: “PS. I’m on the plan for the big exhibition. I will come back to it. ”It is unclear what kind of exhibition plan it is. What is certain is that Brownlow, who sits on the Board of Trustees of the Royal Albert Hall, got an appointment with the then Minister of Culture a little later to talk about the ominous “GE 2.0” – probably a successor to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park from 1851; inconclusive.
Johnson apologizes “humbly and sincerely”
The Labor Party speaks of corruption. “Nobody should be allowed to buy access or exchange wallpaper for festivals,” said Labor politician Angela Rayner. Johnson, who has now fully covered the renovation costs, sees it differently. It is common for ministers to hear suggestions from stakeholders, a spokesman said. “According to current practice, this idea was referred to the responsible ministry, considered and ultimately not pursued by the government.”
In a letter to his ethics advisor, Johnson “humbly and sincerely apologized” for not delivering the text messages earlier. They were stored in a cell phone that was changed after the prime minister’s number became known on the Internet, a spokesman said. Geidt did not assume that Johnson was deliberately neglecting it, but put his report into perspective: “If I had found out about the exchange earlier, I would have asked more extensive questions and focused my attention on them in my report.”
While Geidt is unlikely to make further statements, Johnson could catch up with the affair again on a different path. The Labor Party has called on the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to investigate. Should this follow the call and come to the conclusion that the MP Johnson has violated the code of conduct, threatened him with the temporary suspension from the House of Commons.
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