Politics

Boris Johnson chasisted over missing Whatsapps describing No.10 flat as ‘a tip’

THE PRIME Minister has been chastised after failing to disclose key text messages about his flat refurbishment.

Boris Johnson angered his adviser on ministerial interests after it emerged that Whatsapp communication between the PM and Tory peer Lord Brownlow, regarding the revamp, had not been disclosed.

Lord Geidt, who was appointed last year, carried out an investigation into allegations that Mr Johnson had broken the ministerial code over payment for the luxury renovation to his taxpayer-funded flat.

The work was paid for by Lord Brownlow, before Mr Johnson repaid more than £100,000 to the peer when reports of the costs emerged.

During Lord Geidt’s initial investigation, Mr Johnson said he was unaware of who was paying for the work. A subsequent probe by the Electoral Commission uncovered WhatsApp messages between the PM and the peer regarding the renovations and payment for them.

READ MORE: Tories fined over £52,000 undeclared donation for Boris Johnson’s luxury Downing Street flat refurb

This prompted further inquiry by Lord Geidt, who was said to be displeased as he was not told about the messages during his inquiry.

Today letters between Lord Geidt and the Prime Minister have been published, with Mr Johnson reported to have made a ‘grovelling apology’ to the peer for the oversight.

The peer said that he had not changed his determination and still found that the ministerial code had not been broken, but added that the episode had “expose[d] a signal deficiency in the standards upon which the Independent Adviser and, by extension, the Prime Minister have an absolute right to rely in establishing the truth in such matters.”

He added: “Indeed, the episode shook my confidence precisely because potential and real failures of process occurred in more than one part of the apparatus of government.

“I am very grateful to have your apology for these shortcomings and to know of your determination to prevent such a situation from happening again.”

READ MORE: Electoral Commission to probe Johnson’s Downing Street flat refurbishment

The peer also said his original report may have been different had he seen the Whatsapp messages, which he has desacribed as ‘The Missing Exchange’ in letters to Mr Johnson.

He wrote: “A number of my original conclusions may have required further examination or qualification had the Missing Exchange been known to me: I wrote in my report that ‘at no point in the eight months until late February 2021, as media reports were emerging, was the prime minister made aware of either the fact or the method of the costs of refurbishing the apartment having been paid’.

“Had I been aware of the Missing Exchange, I would have had further questions and drawn attention to it in my report.

“More crucially, I doubt whether I would have concluded, without qualification, what is set out in paragraph 33 of my report, that ‘at the point when the Prime Minister became aware, he took steps to make the relevant declaration and to seek advice’.”

Details of the Whatsapp messages in question were also published, showing the Prime Minister telling Lord Brownlow that “parts” of the flat were “still a bit of a tip” in November 2020.

He wrote: “Hi David I am afraid parts of our flat are still a bit of a tip and am keen to allow Lulu Lytle to get on with it.

“Can I possibly ask her to get in touch with you for approvals ?

“Many thanks and all best Boris.”

The peer responded saying: “Afternoon Prime Minister, I hope you’re both well. Sorry for the delay I was out for a walk and didn’t have my ‘work’ phone with me.

“Of course, get Lulu to call me and we’ll get it sorted ASAP ! Thanks for thinking about GE2 Best wishes David.”

In a later message, he said: “I should have said, as the Trust isn’t set up yet (will be in January) approval is a doddle as it’s only me and I know where the £ will come from, so as soon as Lulu calls we can crack on – David.”

A Trust was supposed to be set up, headed by Lord Brownlow, to pay for the works however this did not end up being formed.

More than £112,000 was paid by Lord Brownlow or his company Huntswood Associates towards the renovations, which were subsequently paid back by the Prime Minister when reports of the arrangement emerged in early 2021.

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