The New Year has not started well for the British Prime Minister. In the first few days, details about the questionable financing of the luxury renovation in Downing Street became known.
For Boris Johnson, 2022 begins like this, How did the old year end?. The series of possible wrongdoing by the British Prime Minister continues.
On Friday, Johnson was forced to grapple with allegations of corruption over the luxurious renovation of his official residence in London’s Downing Street. The ball started rolling with the publication of a series of WhatsApp messages between Johnson and wealthy party donor David Brownlow.
Johnson had requested funding for the renovation in text messages in November 2020. “I’m afraid parts of our apartment are still a dump,” Johnson wrote to the businessman, who also sits in the Conservative Senate.
In return, it seems, Johnson promised to present a project that Brownlow would like: a major event called The Big Show 2.0. A few weeks later, then-Secretary of Culture, Oliver Dowden, met with Brownlow to discuss the matter.
One hand washes the other?
“Lord Brownlow appears to have gained access to the Prime Minister and Minister of Culture because he paid for their luxurious renovations. It is absolutely unbelievable that Boris Johnson did not know who paid for the luxury apartment renovation,” said the opposition Labor Party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner. If that’s the case, it’s just a matter of corruption.”
Johnson has reportedly completely rebuilt and redecorated his official apartment for around £112,000 (about CHF140,000). British heads of government can claim up to just £30,000 in public funds a year for renovations. Johnson had asked Brownlow to set up a foundation that would provide funding, but plans came to nothing. Johnson claims he was not aware of this at first.
Who exactly paid for the luxury conversion was already the subject of many studies. It turns out that the money came largely from Brownlow himself. The British Election Commission has imposed a £20,000 fine on the Conservative Party for an incorrectly announced party donation by Brownlow. Only when the funding made headlines did Johnson get into his pocket and pay for the renewal himself afterwards.
Wallpapers of over 1000 CHF per roll
Johnson had commissioned exclusive designer Lulu Lyte to renovate the apartment, according to WhatsApp messages. His wife, Carrie, had previously complained about the “John Lewis Furniture Nightmare” left over from Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.
The traditional John Lewis furniture store chain is actually a good address in Great Britain and is far from affordable. But the upper class looks at him with disdain. Anyway, the new gilded wallpaper at 840 pounds (about 1,050 francs) per roll is said to have fallen off the wall again soon. Therefore the scandal is also referred to as “Wallpapergate” in the British press.
An internal investigation confirmed that Johnson acted unwisely but not in contravention of the ministers’ code of conduct. However, the Prime Minister later received a reprimand for not providing WhatsApp messages. Their presence did not appear until after the investigation conducted by the Election Commission. Johnson had protested not being able to access his old device and messages because of a new mobile phone.
Explanation provided for quick comments. The Guardian reported on Friday that Johnson could have easily claimed his dog Dylan ate the smartphone.
Written by Christoph Meyer, DB
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