#DowningStreetFlat controversy resurfaces as information shows #BorisJohnson lied to investigation

Has this Downing Street story resurfaced now so manipulative people can confuse it with the story about the Downing Street party last year?

Even if not, it seems to be doing just that, as commenters on Twitter have been mixing the two merrily.

So, for clarity, here’s Labour’s Zarah Sultana with the story:

Boris Johnson – a liar?

Okay, it’s not much of a revelation. But the evidence that he lied to an investigation by Lord Geidt, the independent advisor on ministers’ interests, about how he paid for the flat can only harm Johnson at a time when he desperately needs validation.

Johnson was accused last April of having misled Parliament by failing to provide details of funding for the renovations to his official Downing Street flat.

The allegation was that private donations to the Conservative Party totalling £60,000 had been used as part of £200,000 worth of refurbishments to the flat.

If so, it should have been reported to the Electoral Commission, because the Ministerial Code demands that “a statement covering relevant Ministers’ interests will be published twice yearly”. The last such statement (at the time of the investigation last April) had appeared in July 2020, eight months previously.

If Johnson had received the money from other people, this created a potential conflict of interest but Geidt concluded very swiftly that Johnson did not breach the Ministerial Code and that no conflict, or reasonably perceived conflict, of interest arose.

He said that £52,000 had been contributed by Lord Brownlow, but via a blind trust, meaning Johnson seemed unaware that Brownlow had contributed his own money to it.

But the Electoral Commission had launched its own investigation – and this has just concluded that Johnson did approach Brownlow for cash, via WhatsApp – the government’s favoured method of avoiding scrutiny, back in November 2020:

So what actually happened, it seems, was this:

Johnson wanted to redecorate the flat but his tastes ran to much more expense than the £30,000 per year annual allowance he receives for this purpose.

The Conservative Party then received a donation for £67,801.72 from Brownlow’s firm Huntswood Associates Ltd – but declared only £15,000 of it as a donation. The rest went towards the flat redecoration via a payment from the Tory Party to the Cabinet Office.

This, plus the £30k allowance, was still not enough so Johnson WhatsApp’ed Brownlow for more on November 29, 2020, leading to a further payment direct to contractors of £59,747.40.

The Tories said the £53k they didn’t declare was not a donation, but was in fact “a donation to the Prime Minister via the party”, or “a ‘gift to the nation’”, or “a ministerial matter”, or “the repayment of a loan”.

But the Electoral Commission disagreed, saying the full amount “was a donation and should have been reported to the Commission”; the party’s records of the £53k sum were “not accurate”; and there were “serious failings in the party’s compliance systems”.

As a result, the Conservative Party has been fined £17,800 for failing to comply with electoral law. See information here and here for more details.

That covers the money that went through the Conservative Party but not the extra cash that Brownlow put up himself.

It seems clear that, having requested it from Brownlow, Johnson could not have been unaware of its origin when the bills were suddenly paid.

Certainly his former advisor (and now bitter enemy who calls Johnson the “Shopping Trolley”, using an image of one, on Twitter) Dominic Cummings seems to think so:

Lord Geidt is said to be furious about it – and has reopened his investigation. Whether he did so at the request of Labour’s Angela Rayner (below) is not known to This Writer:

The prime minister’s office at Downing Street has said it will answer any questions Geidt has.

If he finds information that shows Johnson did know the source of the money – or had reason to – then he is likely to have broken not just the Ministerial Code but also the wider Members’ Code, applicable to all MPs.

Any such breach would require his resignation from his job – although as final arbiter on breaches of the Ministerial Code, he could always corruptly dismiss the findings. He’s done that before.

Coming after the allegations about Christmas parties in Downing Street while London was in Tier 3 lockdown, before a by-election triggered by the resignation of a Tory MP amid corruption claims, and while Tory backbenchers debate whether they’ll support new Covid-19 social distancing rules that many believe Johnson is imposing as a distraction, this is another hammer blow to Johnson’s credibility.

If he is found to have known about any of the parties, or the Tory loses the by-election, or Parliament fails to ratify the ‘Plan B’ measures, or he’s found to have broken either of the codes relevant to the flat refurb – or any combination of them – Johnson’s career should be over.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.


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