Tag Archives: Downing

Tory hypocrisy: they can’t sort out fire safety in your flat after Grenfell, but support huge payments to redecorate Johnson’s

Grenfell: this is what happens when inflammable cladding on tower blocks catches fire. Tenants in many more blocks have had this stuff inflicted on them, and the Tories want to force them to pay to get rid of it.

Isn’t it typical of the Tories that they’re happy to nod through possibly corrupt funding of Boris Johnson’s flat redecoration, but won’t protect people in blocks of flats from fires like that at Grenfell Tower?

They have just been knocked back – yet again – by the House of Lords, who have voted to shield residents of tower blocks from fire safety costs.

MPs had rejected the Lords amendment but, after their fourth defeat on this subject, it will now be reinserted into the bill.

The bill modifies a previous law to clarify that building owners must manage and reduce the risk of fire in their properties.

However, last week the House of Lords added an amendment which sought to ensure building owners do not pass on the costs to leaseholders and tenants until a support scheme is in place.

Housing minister Chris Pincher described the amendment as “ineffective and defective”, claiming that it would prevent any remediation costs from being passed to the leaseholder, even in instances where the cost was very minor – such as replacing a smoke alarm.

As a tenant in a rented property myself, I can inform Mr Pincher that my landlord pays for the cost of replacing the smoke alarm here as a matter of course.

It should not be used as an excuse to continue denying tower block tenants improvements that could save their lives.

And it could – because there are only hours left before the end of the current Parliamentary session, when the Bill will be dropped – unless the Tories decide to carry it over to the next session (which seems unlikely to This Writer).

All of this takes place in the shadow of the row over prime minister Boris Johnson’s own flat. Who pays to replace the smoke alarm there?

Tory MPs would have been happy to let £200,000 be paid, just to redecorate the rooms above 11 Downing Street, with no questions asked.

But members of the public have pointed out that this means they are happier for huge amounts to be paid on a single person’s flat – if that person happens to be one of them – than for cash to be spent on potentially life-saving work for many people.

That’s not a good attitude to have with an election next week.

Source: Grenfell: Government defeated on fire safety costs bill – BBC News

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Let the ridicule pile high: social media destroy Boris Johnson over Downing Street flat redecoration

Loadsamoney: the controversy over Boris Johnson’s flat has concentrated attention on the fact that Tories always find cash for their own benefit, while depriving members of the general public of the funding that a proper government should provide to them.

The Electoral Commission has announced that it is investigating the funding of redecoration work on Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat, saying it has “reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred”.

And our friends on the social media have gone into satire overdrive.

Today they have targeted the prime ministerial consort, Carrie Symonds, under the hashtag #CarrieAntoinette – on the grounds that she was the driving force behind the astonishingly-expensive changes.

So we see this:

And, indeed, this:

The claim that Symonds demanded the use of wallpaper costing £840 per roll has been particularly inflammatory:

Many have pointed out the hypocrisy of being funded with huge amounts of cash to pay for the redecoration of a Tory prime minister’s flat, while the Tory government still refuses to fund safety improvements to blocks of flats afflicted with inflammable cladding that makes them as likely to go up in flames as Grenfell Tower (due to decisions by Tories, most likely):

But possibly the best snipe of the lot came from department store chain John Lewis:

The image is of a John Lewis van outside the gates of Downing Street.

The way events are moving, in a few days we’ll be seeing a removal van there.

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Incredible sulk: and Johnson will have a lot to sulk about if MPs tighten rules on lying

Temper, temper: Boris Johnson lost his rag in PMQs over repeated accusations of dishonesty and sleaze. Trouble is, his outburst contained at least one more false claim.

It had to happen at a Prime Minister’s Questions that This Writer didn’t see.

For once, Labour leader Keir Starmer had a good week – but then, with the kind of ammunition he has been provided over the last few days, he could hardly go wrong.

He spent most of his time on the financing of renovations to Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat. Questions over the origin of £60,000 of funding were asked months ago and not answered.

Now, Starmer asked directly whether the money – now pegged at £58,000 – was put up by Lord Brownlow – and Johnson failed to answer directly.

Rather than saying whether Brownlow had any involvement, he simply asserted – repeatedly – that he himself had “covered the cost”.

It would be entirely possible for Johnson to have “covered the cost” after receiving the money from a third party – and the fact that he did not flatly deny any involvement by Brownlow means his claim is meaningless.

But it may be Starmer’s first question that turns out to have been the bigger bear-trap. He asked whether it was true that Johnson had said he would rather have “bodies piled high” than implement another lockdown.

Johnson answered with a categorical “no”, coupled with a demand for Starmer to bring forward any evidence he had.

That may seem fairly straightforward.

But then Starmer said he would follow up on his question in the future.

And then the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford waded into the fray. Acknowledging that MPs aren’t allowed to directly accuse each other of dishonesty, he simply asked Johnson to say whether he is a liar or not.

And Johnson wouldn’t:

As you can see from the clip, first he tried to worm out of answering by querying whether the question was in order – it was.

Then he (again) questioned the evidence of him having done as Blackford (and Starmer) had suggested.

And then he responded that he had not said those words (leading us all to conclude that they may be a close paraphrase of whatever he really said).

Under this kind of pressure, perhaps it should come as no surprise that, while responding to Starmer’s claim that he was “Major Sleaze”*, Johnson underwent what might be described as a “sulk-out” – a two-minute rant that failed to address what he had been asked…

… including another false claim – that Starmer had voted against the Tory government’s Brexit deal.

And this is important, because…

As a result of all these accusations of dishonesty, Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has supported a plan to enforce the rules on misleading Parliament.

Amid a fresh row over the prime minister’s “lies” to MPs, Lindsay Hoyle supported a proposal for the cross-party Commons Procedure Committee to look into “how perceived inaccuracies could be corrected” as quickly as possible.

This could create serious difficulties for Johnson, whose serial lies were mentioned on This Site very recently.

You see, Starmer is right – any minister who knowingly misleads Parliament – including the Prime Minister – is expected to offer their resignation.

If the Procedure Committee puts this expectation on a more formal basis – and Starmer produced the evidence that Johnson did make a comment to the effect that he would rather see multiple deaths than impose a lockdown – then that would signal the end of his premiership.

And it wouldn’t be a day too soon.

*That should be Major Corruption, as reported a few days ago by This Site (and others) – but perhaps Starmer was restricted from saying as much by Parliamentary rules (again).

Source: Boris Johnson Facing Tough New Rules To Force Him To Correct ‘Lies’ To Parliament | HuffPost UK

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Who gave Boris Johnson the money to pay for Downing Street renovation?

Cheese Queen Liz Truss made a very interesting revelation to Andrew Marr about the renovation of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat.

But it wasn’t in what she said – it was in what she didn’t.

Referring to a claim by former prime ministerial advisor Dominic Cummings that Johnson encouraged Tory donors to help pay for the redecoration, she said he had funded the changes himself.

This is entirely in line with what Cummings stated. He said Johnson had planned “to have donors secretly pay for the renovation”. What better way for them to do so than by giving money to Johnson, which he could then pay towards the changes as if the cash had come from him?

You see, when This Site reported on the funding of the redecoration job last month, the issue was why Johnson had not declared the money that had been spent on it. I wrote:

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has been accused of having misled Parliament by failing to provide details of funding for renovations to his official Downing Street flat.

The allegation is that private donations to the Conservative Party totalling £60,000 have 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 appeared last July, eight months ago.

I went on to say it seemed clear that Johnson had knowingly breached the Code in failing to declare the sources of funding for the flat.

That in itself, for MPs, is a resignation-level offence.

If donors had provided the money for this purpose, that would also have put Johnson in breach of the Ministerial Code because it isn’t allowed.

But how would Johnson have been able to afford it, otherwise?

It isn’t very long since we heard Johnson was complaining that his prime ministerial salary wasn’t enough to pay for all his outgoings:

And he suddenly had enough in his back pocket to fork out (allegedly) £60,000 to wallpaper a government-owned flat?

Don’t mock my intelligence, Cheesy Liz.

Source: Boris Johnson covered Downing Street flat renovation from his own pocket, says Liz Truss – BBC News

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A family at war: after Johnson accused Cummings, former advisor blazes back

Spotted on the internet: and who knows how many more nasty little secrets Dominic Cummings will be able to release, just when they will do Boris Johnson the most harm?

I’m waiting for Theresa May to turn up and say, “Now, boys, play nicely!” Not that she’d have any effect at all.

It seems that Boris Johnson thought details of his text conversation promising tax breaks to James Dyson had been leaked by Dominic Cummings.

Denying this, Cummings has nevertheless come out with a different claim – that Johnson had planned a “possibly illegal” way to get Tory donors to pay for renovations to the Downing Street flat that the prime minister uses.

We knew that, didn’t we?

Cummings wrote in his blog: “The PM stopped speaking to me about this matter in 2020 as I told him I thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended. I refused to help him organise these payments.”

For good measure, Cummings has also denied leaking details of the UK’s second Covid-19 lockdown last summer – but he put an extra sting into this one.

He said Johnson had considered stopping an inquiry into that leak (that eventually exonerated Cummings) because (he reckoned) the evidence pointed to Henry Newman, a close personal friend of the prime minister’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds.

Cummings claimed Johnson was concerned that he would have to sack Newman, and this would cause friction with Symonds.

The official line from Downing Street is that Johnson has never interfered with any inquiries – but that’s not what Cummings claimed.

The claim was that Johnson had considered interfering – and this is entirely plausible after Johnson admitted promising to interfere with the tax system for Dyson, at Prime Minister’s Question on Wednesday. (Or did he? Will we have yet another clarification from “a Downing Street source” that he meant something completely – and implausibly – different?)

The result of the inquiry has never been published.

Cummings wrote: “I told him that this was ‘mad’ and totally unethical, that he had ordered the inquiry himself and authorised the Cabinet Secretary to use more invasive methods than are usually applied to leak inquiries because of the seriousness of the leak. I told him that he could not possibly cancel an inquiry about a leak that affected millions of people, just because it might implicate his girlfriend’s friends.”

He added: “It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves.”

Asked to comment on the matter, Johnson himself came out with what may be his only accurate words on any of the corruption allegations that are currently pelting his government. He said:

“I think people aren’t so much interested in who is leaking what to whom as the substance of the issue at hand.”

Yes indeed.

We want to see accurate, verified evidence showing whether Johnson intervened with HMRC to change tax rules of Dyson.

We want to see evidence showing whether Johnson was implicated in the Greensill lobbying scandal.

We want evidence on how Johnson funded his flat renovations.

We want to know why the inquiry into the lockdown leak wasn’t published.

And we want to see evidence on the accuracy of all the other corruption claims that have come out of the woodwork – and that are likely to emerge in the future.

And no – “a Downing Street spokesperson denied the allegations” will not be acceptable.

Source: Dominic Cummings launches attack on Boris Johnson’s integrity – BBC News

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Anyone who knowingly misleads Parliament should resign. So why hasn’t Johnson gone?

The double-standards in this story are atrocious.

On one side, we see Nicola Sturgeon. The First Minister of Scotland has been found to have misled Parliament by giving an inaccurate account of meetings with Alex Salmond in 2018.

If an inquiry finds that she knowingly uttered falsehoods, then that is a resignation offence for an elected minister of any government, according to the Ministerial Code, and she should go – without question.

On the other side, we see Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has been accused of having misled Parliament by failing to provide details of funding for renovations to his official Downing Street flat.

The allegation is that private donations to the Conservative Party totalling £60,000 have 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 appeared last July, eight months ago.

It seems clear that Johnson has knowingly breached the Code in failing to declare the sources of funding for the flat.

So he should resign – right?

But within Parliament there has been no pressure for him to do so, while Tory calls for Sturgeon to take a hike have been punitive in their decibel level.

Labour’s Keir Starmer, despite being a lawyer, has claimed Sturgeon should go whether she knowingly misled Parliament or not – which is another indication that he should not be in politics, let alone running a political party.

10 Downing Street says all appropriate codes were followed, but this rings hollow. What does Allegra Stratton, Johnson’s press secretary, mean by “appropriate”? Something different from the dictionary definition, one would guess.

That’s how Downing Street has explained the other ways Johnson has recently misled Parliament, as I mentioned in a previous article:

After he said there would be no funding cut for the body tasked with improving transport in the north (he’s taking away 40 per cent of its funding), Downing Street tried to suggest he had been talking about transport generally for the north of England.

And after he claimed all Covid-19 contracts had been published and were “on the record” – only to be contradicted by the High Court – a minister said all CANs – Contract Award Notices – had been published. They are not the same thing.

Today’s howler was his claim, in Prime Minister’s Questions, that Keir Starmer had voted against a promise of a 2.1 per cent pay rise for nurses – that his own government is breaking.

The plan was in the NHS Funding Bill last year – which passed without a formal vote because all the main parties supported it. Starmer didn’t need to vote, but if he had, he would have supported the Bill.

Johnson (or rather, Stratton – he’d done his usual runner) eventually came out with a claim that he had been saying Starmer voted against the Queen’s Speech – but the plan wasn’t mentioned in it.

The document Starmer had been waving around at PMQs – and to which he had been referring – was the NHS long-term plan, which was a policy document and not a piece of legislation on which he could have voted.

So it seems clear that Johnson had knowingly misled Parliament but the issue also seems to have gone away because nobody is calling for his resignation over it.

If you’re wondering who did fund the renovation, here‘s openDemocracy:

The Daily Mail has reported that Downing Street allegedly sought to plug the gap in the six-figure refurbishment of the prime ministerial flat using Conservative Party funds. After the party initially paid for part of the refurb, the Mail reports, Conservative Party donor Lord Brownlow gave it £60,000 last autumn to make up the difference.

The Mail also claims that party officials have since been looking for ways to keep the donation anonymous by returning it, and then repeating it through a new ‘Downing Street Trust’ that would conceal the original source.

Lord Brownlow, who served as vice-chairman of the Tory party in 2017-20 and was made a peer in 2019 by Theresa May, is expected to head up this new non-charitable trust.

So the person who allegedly provided this dodgy donation is set to head the organisation dedicated to hushing it up. More corrupt cronyism?

Let’s face it: nobody involved in this is going to come out smelling of roses.

It’s just that Boris Johnson, more than anybody else, is going to be smelling of faeces.

And it will take more than a Union Flag to wipe them away.

Source: Election watchdog quizzes Tory party over funding of PM’s flat makeover – BBC News

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£2.6 million Downing Street briefing room was built by Russians. Not ‘very sensible’!

The new government media briefing room: your local parish council could have done a better job, and cheaper, but Boris Johnson gave the contract to a company based in a hostile state.

After This Site’s article yesterday showing that Boris Johnson is trying to hide the idiocy of his decisions by claiming they are “very sensible”, this:

His government paid £2.6 million to a Russian company for construction of the new media briefing room – in Downing Street, the heart of the UK government.

Despite being sued for unlawfully withholding details of contracts, the Tory government has refused to say whether the work was put out to competitive tender. It should have been, because the contract was not awarded as part of an emergency.

In fact, no details of the contract with Russian-owned Megahertz have been published.

Megahertz carried out the main work on the project, including installing computers, cameras, microphones and a control desk. Its owner Okno-TV has previously carried out similar technical work for Russian state-controlled broadcasters Russia Today, Channel One, and Public Television of Russia.

It has not been suggested that the company is influenced by the Russian government, but the question has to be asked:

Why did Boris Johnson hire a company from a country that has been designated a “hostile state” to build a communications hub for the UK government?

It’s a security nightmare.

And, after the Salisbury poisonings, a public relations disaster.

Worse still, the briefing room itself looks amateurish.

Advance photos of the space, released before it goes into daily use, show a layout that could have been put together at a village hall, with a central podium backed by two Union flags and a TV screen on one side facing rows of the kind of chairs you see stacked at the side of your local meeting-room.

It doesn’t look like a £2.6m facility. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t look like it cost £2,000.

Admittedly, the broadcasting equipment was probably expensive. But, coming from a Russian firm, who knows what might be included in it, alongside what Johnson asked for?

The work also comes after a Tory government had to end the involvement of Chinese firm Huawei in the rollout of 5G telecommunications in the UK.

So This Writer is in a rare position of agreement with Labour’s Chris Bryant, who chairs the all-party Parliamentary group on Russia, who said,

What shocks me most is that the Johnson government seems to have learnt nothing about the involvement in sensitive UK projects of companies with [links] to autocratic regimes, whether in Russia or in China.

Fundamental to the whole issue, of course, is the fact that Johnson spaffed this cash to Russia while do the dirty on nurses by giving them a pay cut.

It is clear that Johnson’s claim that he could not afford to pay any more to the people who saved so many from Covid-19 is bunkum; he’s got money to burn.

The problem is that his priorities are wrong.

Source: Exclusive: Russian-Owned Firm Played Key Role In Downing Street Media Refit | HuffPost UK

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Have the Tories been SHAMED into bringing their £2.6 million ‘briefing room’ out of mothballs?

£2.6m on a TV studio and it will look much like this: the flags will be there but probably not the fireplace, and Johnson is likely to be speaking from a podium. One thing that is likely to remain absent is a comb.

Funny how the Johnson government has announced it is planning to run daily press conferences from its £2.6m media briefing TV studio, shortly after the social media reported that the space was going unused and the money had been wasted, isn’t it?

This Site’s own story appeared on February 22 and you can read it here.

I said at the time that the spending on a Boris Johnson vanity project showcased his fascination with the United States presidency. Perhaps he wants to seem presidential?

If so, it won’t work because he simply doesn’t have the personality to pull it off. All that will happen is we will be able to identify his lies more quickly, without a layer of client-journalist interpretation to get in our way.

This in turn causes me to speculate on the selection of press representatives who will be allowed access to the briefings.

It seems unlikely that anybody without a Conservative Party membership card in their pocket is likely to get past the Downing Street gates.

With the briefings being televised, that may not matter. But how long will that last?

I can see live briefings turning into “selected highlights” as the novelty diminishes and ratings decline.

And who will select them?

Source: Downing Street: Millions spent on new media briefing room – BBC News

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Cummings is out of Downing Street – but what does it actually mean?

Cummings and Boris Johnson: I never really bothered to do another image of him and now I’m glad I didn’t; he’s gone. But how far has he gone?

Many will be saying Boris Johnson will have to take responsibility for his own cock-ups from now on – but will he?

Johnson has had the benefit of a lot of media belief that he’s the monkey to Dominic Cummings’s organ grinder, ever since he moved into Downing Street in July 2019.

Now, with Cummings moving out of Downing Street “to clear the air”, he won’t have that excuse – even if it is still applicable.

You see, Cummings may have left his official role but this just means we don’t know what he will be doing, who he’ll be doing it with, or how much influence he may continue to wield.

And it is entirely possible, of course, that the whole story about Cummings being the secret mastermind was just a blind, and the Johnson government will continue self-combusting, as it has been ever since that fateful July 2019 day.

Time will tell.

But it seems clear that the future under Johnson’s Tories holds just two possibilities:

  • Life in the UK will stay as bad as it is now.
  • Life in the UK will get much, much worse.

For now I think it is okay to sympathise with all those who are celebrating with a few choruses of “The witch is dead”…

But I think we have to temper that sympathy with a clear understanding that the UK is not out of the woods yet – by a very long way.

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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50,000 dead overall, 33,000 infections IN ONE DAY – and the news is all about Dominic Cummings

Dominic Cummings: he wouldn’t go for a good reason when this shot was taken in the summer, but if the possibility of him quitting distracts us from the UK’s coronavirus horror show, it suddenly becomes headline news.

It seems there is a national media agenda to pull the wool over our eyes.

Covid-19 reached a new height in the UK yesterday. The country became the first in Europe to record more than 50,000 official (remember that) deaths…

(Oh, and by the way…)

Those official figures also show that 33,470 new cases of the virus were recorded, compared with 22,950 on Wednesday…

And the number of fatalities in a single day has reached 595:

Meanwhile the test-and-trace fiasco continues unabated:

And plans to immunise us all against Covid, using the new vaccine, mean some of us won’t get our shots for another 36 years:

And what’s the headline on the news?

What’s going on? Why are the news media blithering about soap-opera shenanigans in Downing Street rather than telling us what we need to know about the virus that is raging through the UK like wildfire?

(I think he means the pain of the victims. Spellchecker can be a burden.)

The question is, are we all being distracted from the horror of the virus and the failure to cope with it by Boris Johnson and his fellow incompetents?

If so, it isn’t working.

Do they really think we’re so stupid we haven’t realised what is happening on our own streets?

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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