Boris Johnson must ‘come clean’ about flat refurb, says Labour
Call comes as minister refuses to deny reports work at No 11 flat was originally funded by Tory donors
Allegations of Conservative cronyism and sleaze must be cleaned up, the shadow foreign secretary has said, as a government minister repeatedly refused to deny reports the prime minister’s flat refurbishments were originally funded by Tory party donors.
Lisa Nandy renewed Labour’s attack on its political opponents as questions surrounding Boris Johnson’s financial affairs – and, therefore, his potential vulnerability to undue influence – refused to dissipate on Wednesday.
“We are focused on the pandemic but we also want to know that we have a prime minister in this country who puts the interests of the people in this country first,” Nandy told Sky News.
She was referring to allegations the Tory peer Lord Brownlow was the ultimate source of the money used to pay for the prime minister’s redecoration of his private living quarters above 11 Downing Street.
“The problem with what has gone on over the flat is we still don’t know who loaned the prime minister this money, he won’t even confirm or deny whether it was loaned or not, we don’t know why he didn’t declare it and we don’t know what he offered them in return.
“The reason those rules are there is so we know who powerful figures are beholden to, who they may owe favours to so we can properly scrutinise and check that they’re not acting in the interests of a privileged few over and above the majority of people in this country.
“At the moment, we do not have a prime minister in this country that we can be confident is acting in the interests of the British people; that’s just unacceptable.”
Nandy added: “We’ve got to see him come to the House of Commons, make a statement about this, come clean about who offered him money, who he took money from, and what he owes them in return … we’ve got to start to clean up this sleaze at the heart of government.”
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, declined several opportunities to deny publicly the reports that the money had originally come from donors during interviews with the BBC and Sky News on Wednesday, repeating Downing Street’s line that the prime minister paid for the refurbishment himself.
While No 10 has been keen to stress that point, critics have pointed out that it does not address whether the money originally came from donors.
On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Shapps was asked repeatedly why – if Johnson’s claims that all was above-board were true – No 10 would not simply publish all of the evidence, as it has the power to do and as it has done in the past. He said the cabinet secretary would publish a review at a later date.
Johnson has been coming under pressure from his own party to explain where the money came from. A former Labour chancellor refused to join a trust overseeing Downing Street’s upkeep out of concerns it could lead to a cash-for-access scandal.
Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings has alleged that the prime minister had planned to have donors “secretly pay” for work on the flat. Cummings called this “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended”.
source: Kevin Rawlinson