The Electoral Commission is investigating Boris Johnson’s refurbishment of his Downing Street flat. It comes as the row over the PM’s redecoration deepens.
The Downing Street refurb
On Wednesday 28 April, Johnson’s troubles over the renovations continued. The commission said it was beginning a “formal investigation” to see if any rules had been broken. As Press Association reported, questions have been mounting for Johnson since former aide Dominic Cummings accused him of wanting donors to “secretly pay” for the renovations to his No 11 residence in a “possibly illegal” move.
Downing Street has refused to say whether Johnson received an initial loan from the Conservative Party to cover renovations to the flat at No 11. But media outlets have been reporting rumours about the situation. The Guardian noted that Johnson and the Tories may have broken donation rules. This is because Tory donor lord David Brownlow allegedly helped fund Johnson’s refurb.
‘Johnson can’t live in a skip’
Tory Party members have been defending Johnson. Notably, Michael Gove’s wife Sarah Vine said on BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme that Johnson ‘couldn’t be expected to live in a skip’. Her comments were met with some derision on social media:
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Boris Johnson can't be expected to live in a skip, says Sarah Vine. https://t.co/v4nbCMcmis
— Bernadette Meaden (@BernaMeaden) April 28, 2021
Boris Johnson can't be expected to 'live in a skip', says Sarah Vine
Just when you thought the wife of Michael Gove couldn’t be any more vile
— kerry 🥀 (@hewitson10) April 28, 2021
Enter the Electoral Commission
An Electoral Commission spokesperson said in a press release:
We have been in contact with the Conservative Party since late March and have conducted an assessment of the information they have provided to us.
We are now satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred. We will therefore continue this work as a formal investigation to establish whether this is the case.
The investigation will determine whether any transactions relating to the works at 11 Downing Street fall within the regime regulated by the Commission and whether such funding was reported as required.
We will provide an update once the investigation is complete. We will not be commenting further until that point.
But as one Twitter user pointed out, the Electoral Commission and potentially the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will have to prove that Johnson intended to break the rules:
These die in the long grass of "intent". It is how the Tories get away with breaking the rules at every election. https://t.co/rNGfzc5eDM
— Simon Vessey (@Simon_Vessey) April 28, 2021
So far, Johnson and Downing Street have not commented on the Electoral Commission’s investigation.
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