Lost WhatsApps reveal Boris Johnson complained his Downing St flat was a 'bit of a tip'

·Political Correspondent - Yahoo News UK
·5-min read
File photo dated 06/10/21 Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his wife Carrie. Boris Johnson's wife Carrie has given birth to her second child with the Prime Minister after a tumultuous 24 hours for Downing Street. Issue date: Thursday December 9, 2021.
Boris Johnson referred to his multi-million pound Downing Street flat as "a bit of a tip". (PA)

Boris Johnson referred to his multi-million pound Downing Street flat as a "bit of a tip" in WhatsApp messages that have been made public. 

The comments emerged as the PM was forced to offer a “humble and sincere apology” for not disclosing an exchange of WhatsApps with a Tory donor, Lord David Brownlow, in which he discussed the funding of the refurbishment of his No 11 flat.

The prime minister told Lord Christopher Geidt, his adviser on ministerial standards, that the messages had been on an old phone which he had to stop using due to “security issues” and therefore he “did not have access to my previous device and did not recall the message exchange”.

Lord Geidt said the failure to alert him to the WhatsApp messages exchanged with Tory donor Lord Brownlow had been “unwise”.

The messages reveal the exchanges between Johnson and Lord Brownlow on 29 November 2020.

The WhatsApp messages between the Prime Minister and and Lord Brownlow which have been published in a letter from the Prime Minister's standards adviser, Lord Geidt, to Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister has explained that he did not disclose messages exchanged with the Tory donor about his flat refurbishment because they were on an old phone. Issue date: Thursday January 6, 2022.
The WhatsApp messages between the Prime Minister and and Lord Brownlow, which have been published in a letter from the PM's standards adviser, Lord Geidt, to Boris Johnson. (PA)

Johnson wrote at 12.59pm: "Hi David, I am afraid parts of our flat are still a bit of a tip and am keen to allow Lulu Lytle get on with it. Can I possibly ask her to get in touch with you for approvals?"

Brownlow replied at 3.44pm: "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 ! Best wishes David”

Watch: Minister: Flat refurb did not break ministerial code

Brownlow texted half an hour later: “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."

The investigation into the renovation of the prime minister's flat was launched in April 2021 when the Electoral Commission found there was "reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred”, and ordered an investigation into the matter - with standards adviser Lord Geidt appointed to oversee it independently.

File photo dated 6/5/2015 of the Prime Minister's standards adviser, Lord Geidt. Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has called for Lord Geidt to reinvestigate the funding of refurbishments at Boris Johnson's Downing Street flat, amidst a continuing row over the revamp. Issue date: Friday December 10, 2021.
The prime minister's standards adviser, Lord Geidt. (PA)
BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg visits then prime minister Theresa May at the Downing Street flat. (BBC)
The BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg visits then prime minister Theresa May at the Downing Street flat in 2019. (BBC)

Prime ministers already get a taxpayer funded £30,000 allowance per year for renovations to the property. However, despite this, Johnson described the flat as "a bit of a tip" and stated he needed the donations.

Some reports suggest Johnson and his wife Carrie spent £840 per roll on gold wallpaper - and that they referred to the decor they inherited from former prime minister, Theresa May, as a "John Lewis nightmare". 

Lord Geidt ultimately cleared the PM of breaching the code in relation to the funding of the flat refurbishment, though he said the prime minister had acted "unwisely". 

Read more: Inside Number 11 Downing Street: how could Boris Johnson’s flat refurbishment cost £200,000?

He also said that Johnson had told him that "he knew nothing about such payments until immediately prior to media reports in February 2021".

While Lord Geidt has said the emergence of the new WhatsApp messages did not changed his "original assessment" regarding whether Johnson broke he ministerial code, in a scathing letter he said it did "expose 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". 

A page of the letter from the Prime Minister offering a
A page of the letter from the PM offering a 'humble and sincere apology' to Lord Geidt over the failure to disclose messages exchanged with a Tory donor about his flat refurbishment. (PA)

He added: "I believe a far greater threat to public confidence attaches to the exchanges unrecalled, the messages undisclosed, the data unconsidered and the subsequent misjudgements about the impact of the messages which I have had to weigh in this initial advice."

Labour have accused Johnson of breaking the ministerial code following the new developments. 

“Boris Johnson has little regard for the rules or the truth. The ministerial code requires ministers to act with transparency and honesty," said deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner. 

number 11
Number 11 Downing Street where Boris Johnson's flat is located. (HM Treasury, 2009)
downing s
Number 11 is the official residence of the chancellor, but the prime minister uses its flat. (HM Treasury, 2009)

“It is simply impossible to read these exchanges and conclude that the prime minister has not breached these aspects of the code.

“Once again, by attempting to hide the truth, Boris Johnson undermines his own office. The prime minister’s pathetic excuses will fool no-one and this is just the latest in a long line of sorry episodes.”

Johnson has insisted he follows the ministerial code at all times.

However, the Electoral Commission fined the Conservatives £17,800 after it found the party had not followed the law over donations by Lord Brownlow to help cover the renovations, with costs exceeding £112,500.

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