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Elections watchdog launches probe into ‘offences’ over No11 flat

The elections watchdog at this time launched a proper probe into whether or not ‘offences’ have been dedicated within the Downing Avenue flat row.

The Electoral Fee stated there have been ‘affordable grounds to suspect’ the regulation may need been damaged over the controversial No11 refurbishment. 

In a press release that heaps strain on the PM, the watchdog stated: ‘We’ve got been involved with the Conservative Get together since late March and have performed an evaluation of the data they’ve offered to us. 

‘We are actually happy that there are affordable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences could have occurred. We’ll subsequently proceed this work as a proper investigation to ascertain whether or not that is the case.

‘The investigation will decide whether or not any transactions referring to the works at 11 Downing Avenue fall throughout the regime regulated by the Fee and whether or not such funding was reported as required.

‘We’ll present an replace as soon as the investigation is full. We won’t be commenting additional till that time.’

Ministers desperately tried to shore up Mr Johnson at this time as opposition MPs branded him a ‘serial liar’ over the £88,000 flat refurb and ‘our bodies piling up’ remark.

Mr Johnson is dealing with a gruelling PMQs look with Sir Keir Starmer set to show up the warmth after a slew of revelations and a briefing battle with former aide Dominic Cummings.

Scrutiny over the overhaul of the flat above No11 the place Mr Johnson and fiancee Carrie Symonds and son Wilf dwell has refused to abate regardless of the federal government’s efforts to attract a line underneath the difficulty. 

Downing Avenue has declined to disclaim that Tory funds have been used to cowl £58,000 of the prices – on high of the £30,000 annual allowance given by the taxpayer.

However the present final July has not been declared wherever as but, and Mr Johnson now insists he has paid the sum himself – with hypothesis he took out a mortgage. 

And No10 has come underneath hearth for saying Conservative funds usually are not presently getting used for a refurbishment, with out addressing the difficulty of whether or not they have been prior to now.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tried to gloss over the row in a spherical of interviews this morning, claiming it’s a ‘story of the previous’ and declarations shall be made. 

Amid the contemporary revelations because the disaster threatens to snowball for the PM at this time:

  • Mr Johnson’s new chief of employees is alleged to have warned it was ‘loopy’ to ask rich Tory donors to fund a lavish renovation of the Prime Minister’s flat 
  • Downing Avenue apparently approached Labour former chancellor Alistair Darling to see if he would sit on a belief to supervise the refurbishment, however he stated no 
  • Insiders concern Dominic Cummings could publish WhatsApp messages which might be on the coronary heart of the federal government’s who-said-what row over 
  • Mr Johnson remains to be underneath investigation over his declaration of a luxurious vacation to Mustique after his big election victory in December 2019.  

Scrutiny over the overhaul of the flat above No11 the place Boris Johnson and fiancee Carrie Symonds and son Wilf dwell has refused to abate regardless of the federal government’s efforts to attract a line underneath the difficulty

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tried to gloss over the No11 flat row in a spherical of interviews this morning, claiming it’s a ‘story of the previous’ and declarations shall be made

In truth, the upmarket inside eco designer Lulu Lytle (designs pictured) – whose Soane Britain firm was commissioned by Miss Symonds – sells ‘Yellow Gold’ and ‘Previous Gold’ wallpaper

However shadow international secretary Lisa Nandy informed Sky Information that ‘any person is mendacity right here’. 

Sleaze probe into PM’s Mustique vacation nonetheless occurring 

A sleaze inquiry into Boris Johnson’s journey to Mustique remains to be ongoing some 16 months after the Prime Minister’s lavish Caribbean vacation.

Downing Avenue yesterday stated Mr Johnson had made all related declarations after the ten-day luxurious villa break, which was price £15,000.

However senior Tories are braced for contemporary criticism of Mr Johnson over how his and Carrie Symonds’ journey was funded.

The PM recorded the vacation within the register of MPs’ pursuits final yr, stating the break got here courtesy of Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross, who owns a vacation villa on the island.

A spokesman for Mr Ross, a long-time Tory donor, initially informed the Mail that the tycoon had not paid for the journey, describing the declare as a ‘mistake’. They later backtracked, saying Mr Ross had ‘facilitated’ the vacation in December 2019. 

‘We’re centered on the pandemic however we additionally need to know that we now have a Prime Minister on this nation who places the pursuits of the individuals on this nation first,’ she stated.

‘The issue with what has gone on over the flat is we nonetheless do not know who loaned the Prime Minister this cash, he will not even verify or deny whether or not it was loaned or not, we do not know why he did not declare it and we do not know what he provided them in return.

‘The explanation these guidelines are there may be so we all know who highly effective figures are beholden to, who they could owe favours to so we are able to correctly scrutinise and examine that they don’t seem to be performing within the pursuits of a privileged few over and above the vast majority of individuals on this nation.’

Inexperienced MP Caroline Lucas accused the PM of ‘mendacity on an industrial scale’.

‘Sadly I say he’s a serial liar. It is a man who is not simply mendacity often, he’s routinely mendacity on the dispatch field and that makes it unimaginable for MPs to carry him to account,’ she informed BBC Radio 4’s Right now programme. 

A No10 spokeswoman stated renovation prices of Mr Johnson’s residing quarters, past these offered for by the £30,000 annual allowance, had been ‘met by the Prime Minister personally’, including: ‘Conservative Get together funds usually are not getting used for this.’

The Conservative Get together chief has confronted a flurry of questions concerning how the revamp was paid for following a fallout with former aide Dominic Cummings.

The previous No10 chief, who stop his submit final yr, stated Mr Johnson needed donors to ‘secretly pay’ for the work in an ‘unethical, silly, probably unlawful’ transfer.

Cupboard Secretary Simon Case, head of the Civil Service, has been tasked with reviewing the refurbishment of the flat in No11, whereas the Electoral Fee can be trying into the affair.

Mr Johnson can be prone to face a reckoning over whether or not the association ought to have been declared on the Commons register of pursuits.

He has beforehand been pressured to apologise to the Home for failing to abide by transparency guidelines – with a warning two years in the past that he’ll face ‘severe sanction’ if he strays once more. That might probably imply suspension, though it might have to be permitted by all MPs. 

The contemporary claims concerning the flat come as Downing Avenue seemed to sidestep allegations Mr Johnson informed aides he would quite let coronavirus ‘rip’ than impose a lockdown final yr.

His official spokesman stated as a substitute that the Prime Minister’s actions have been being distorted in phrases that didn’t quantity to a denial, not like No 10’s robust rejection of the suggestion Mr Johnson stated in October he would quite see ‘our bodies pile excessive’ than announce a 3rd lockdown.

Mr Shapps stated the Prime Minister had ‘paid 100 per cent for the refurbishments’, searching for to painting the furore as an historic curiosity. 

The minister stated Cupboard Secretary Simon Case will reply whether or not Mr Johnson was given an preliminary mortgage to cowl the prices of refurbishments.

Mr Shapps informed Occasions Radio: ‘I will provide you with a very straight reply, the Cupboard Secretary is definitely conducting a evaluate to take a look at the recommendation and the order during which every part occurred with the upkeep of Downing Avenue.

‘I simply haven’t got the reply however the Cupboard Secretary will and it is going to be transparently produced within the annual report and the accounts of the Cupboard Workplace.’  

Mr Johnson has additionally been underneath hearth over claims he stated he would quite ‘let the our bodies pile excessive’ than set off one other lockdown final Autumn.

The premier has flatly denied making the comment, however the Mail, BBC and ITV have been informed by a number of sources that he did. 

In the meantime, Sir James Dyson mounted a defence of his contact with Mr Johnson through the coronavirus pandemic after a textual content message he despatched was made public by the BBC final week.

The British entrepreneur stated it was a ‘grotesque mischaracterisation’ by the BBC to recommend he was a Tory backer, following his determination to message the Prime Minister about tax and different points whereas designing further ventilators on the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak in spring 2020.

‘The BBC’s characterisation of me as a distinguished Conservative donor, or supporter, leveraging a place of energy to extract favours from the Prime Minister, is totally unfaithful,’ he wrote in The Each day Telegraph.

‘I’ve met Boris Johnson solely thrice – at all times with officers – the final time in 2016. I’ve not attended any Conservative social occasions.’

On a BBC corrections and clarifications net web page, the publicly-funded broadcaster responded to Sir James’ objections to the best way he had been described.

‘In our protection of texts he had despatched to the Prime Minister we referred in numerous shops to Sir James Dyson as a distinguished Conservative supporter or stated he backed the Conservatives,’ the web site entry on Monday stated.

‘Sir James says that is factually incorrect. We’re completely satisfied to set the report straight.’

‘She’s shopping for gold wallpaper. It is costing tens and tens of hundreds… I can’t afford it’: Boris Johnson’s despairing cry to Downing St aides about lavish new No 10 decor – as revealed in definitive account of THAT scandal 

BY SIMON WALTERS FOR THE DAILY MAIL 

Like most of the most explosive political bombshells, the Downing Avenue flat scandal had a protracted fuse.

It was fourteen months in the past – again in February 2020 – that officers first grew to become alarmed by renovations to the No 11 flat.

They’d good cause to not pay an excessive amount of consideration to decorators who had been at work there for the reason that New 12 months. A dozen or so instances of Covid had been reported in Britain, and the likelihood that it might endanger the UK was beginning to be taken severely by some Downing Avenue officers.

It was fourteen months in the past – again in February 2020 – that officers first grew to become alarmed by renovations to the No 11 flat. Pictured: Lulu Lytle’s assortment

Mr Johnson was nonetheless on a excessive from his election triumph in December 2019 and had had a Christmas vacation in Mustique within the Caribbean with accomplice Carrie Symonds – they have been nonetheless to change into engaged.

The couple have been overjoyed to be taught she was pregnant, although that they had not but shared the information with the remainder of the world.

As is now well-known, at this stage life-long libertarian Mr Johnson was amongst those that have been much less alarmed concerning the danger of a pandemic.

However he was all of the sudden alarmed by indicators of a political drawback nearer to house.

They’d good cause to not pay an excessive amount of consideration to decorators who had been at work there for the reason that New 12 months. Pictured: Lulu Lytle’s assortment

‘The price is completely uncontrolled – she’s shopping for gold wallpaper!’ he’s stated to have raged to aides.

It isn’t clear if this was traditional Johnson hyperbole – or whether or not the wallpaper actually is gold. In truth, the upmarket inside eco designer Lulu Lytle – whose Soane Britain firm was commissioned by Miss Symonds – sells ‘Yellow Gold’ and ‘Previous Gold’ wallpaper.

When aides requested him how a lot it was costing, he stated: ‘Tens and tens of hundreds – I am unable to afford it.’

The Cupboard Workplace, which is in command of sustaining the Downing Avenue property, informed him there was a £30,000-a-year publicly funded allowance for refurbishing the flat.

Mr Johnson must pay the remaining – £58,000.

‘The price is completely uncontrolled – she’s shopping for gold wallpaper!’ he’s stated to have raged to aides. Pictured: Lulu Lytle’s assortment

It led to friction between Miss Symonds and Helen MacNamara, Director Common of Propriety and Ethics within the Cupboard Workplace.

Miss Symonds is alleged to have urged Mr Johnson to sack Miss MacNamara after she refused to log out more money for the flat.

Regardless of his £150,000-a-year wage as Prime Minister, he’s stated to battle to make ends meet on account of shedding an estimated £250,000 a yr from his journalistic profession in addition to an costly divorce with ex-wife Marina.

By March, Mr Johnson was having to take outing from disaster conferences on the pandemic to deal the difficulty his advisers referred to as ‘Wallpaper-gate’ – after the Seventies Watergate political scandal within the US that introduced down President Richard Nixon.

They began discussing who was going to pay Miss Lytle’s invoice – and the way.

Tory chairman Ben Elliot, a profitable entrepreneur and philanthropist, is extra famous for his political connections than his political achievements.

Like Mr Johnson he’s an Previous Etonian; he’s greatest associates with one other Previous Etonian Lord (Zac) Goldsmith – extra of whom later – and friends with Miss Symonds.

He’s additionally a nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall.

In contrast to well-known Conservative chairmen of the previous reminiscent of Norman Tebbit, Mr Elliot prefers to function behind the scenes in No10 and Tory HQ.

Which is the place he started to grapple with ‘Wallpaper-gate’.

Mr Johnson’s first thought was to ask Tory donor Lord Bamford, boss of the JCB development big, to repay the £58,000.

Lord Bamford and his corporations have given greater than £10million to the Conservatives through the years – and spouse Woman Bamford’s Daylesford farm retailers delivered wholesome meals to No10 after Mr Johnson recovered from Covid.

The Bamford choice was dropped, although it’s unclear why.

By early June, it’s believed the Cupboard Workplace had paid all the invoice, together with the ‘extra’ £58,000.

Nevertheless it needed to be paid again.

Mr Johnson’s group got here up with one other wheeze: a ‘blind belief’ modelled on the White Home Belief used to keep up the US President’s Workplace.

Regardless of his £150,000-a-year wage as Prime Minister, he’s stated to battle to make ends meet on account of shedding an estimated £250,000 a yr from his journalistic profession in addition to an costly divorce with ex-wife Marina

The official goal was to ‘protect Downing Avenue for posterity’ together with the State Rooms.

In truth, it appears the true goal was to recoup the £58,000.

The benefit of the ‘blind belief’ could be that the prime minister of the day wouldn’t know who had given cash to the belief so there could possibly be no battle of curiosity.

The proposal was quickly deserted as impractical.

Undeterred, Mr Johnson resolved to arrange a distinct, extra open, type of Downing Avenue belief.

One other multi-millionaire Tory donor, Lord Brownlow, was requested by Mr Johnson to arrange the brand new belief.

It emerged yesterday that former Labour Chancellor Lord (Alistair) Darling turned down a suggestion in July to steer the belief.

So Lord Brownlow took on the job.

It was round this time that Tory HQ paid £58,000 to the Cupboard Workplace to clear the debt.

However after being informed it might fall foul of Electoral Fee guidelines which say celebration funds ought to be used for political campaigning, the celebration seems to have panicked.A unprecedented obvious try to disguise the cost was launched.

This newspaper has been informed that in early October Mr Johnson additionally mentioned his monetary woes in No10 with Lord Goldsmith.

Miss Symonds’s appointment in January as head of communications for the Aspinall Basis, a wildlife charity, was a great addition to her and Mr Johnson’s revenue. A leaked e-mail obtained by the Each day Mail confirmed that on October 23, Lord Brownlow informed Mr Elliot that he had made a £58,000 ‘donation’ to Tory HQ.

He made it clear it was to cowl the identical sum paid by the celebration to the Cupboard Workplace.

He added the £58,000 was to be attributed to the ‘soon-to-be-formed Downing Belief’ – headed by Lord Brownlow himself. Six months later the belief isn’t any nearer to being established.

Cupboard Secretary Simon Case stated this week that it couldn’t be used to pay to refurbish both of the 2 Downing Avenue flats at numbers 10 and 11 – both now or sooner or later.

Taking into account that was its actual, albeit unspoken, objective all alongside, insiders say the belief will now be ‘quietly dumped.’ In the meantime, Downing Avenue now says the refurbishment prices ‘have been met by the Prime Minister personally’, however has not defined how Mr Johnson paid the £58,000.

It isn’t clear the place he bought the cash from – nor who he has paid it to.

Miss Lytle? The Cupboard Workplace? Tory HQ? Lord Brownlow? The cash path isn’t just murky, it’s dizzying. Opposition by Mr Johnson’s former chief of employees Dominic Cummings to utilizing donors to pay for the flat was one of many causes for his acrimonious exit from Downing Avenue in December.

However this newspaper has been informed that when his successor, ex-banker Dan Rosenfield joined No10 in January, he was equally shocked.

‘He could not consider anybody had allowed such a loopy association to go forward within the first place – or that a lot time had been spent on attempting and failing to type out the mess,’ stated a supply.

Former Cupboard Secretary Lord O’Donnell stated yesterday: ‘Prime ministers should set an instance and may abide by the principles that are there for cause. He wants to focus on points like Covid and the best way to do this is to abide by the principles.’

In his blistering assault final week Mr Cummings stated he informed Mr Johnson early final yr that the funding of flat makeover was ‘unethical, silly and probably unlawful.’

Whether or not you assume Cummings is a genius or the satan incarnate, it’s laborious to disagree that Mr Johnson is responsible on a minimum of one of many three counts. 


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