A Cabinet minister has denied that Boris Johnson is “sleazy”, following allegations the prime minister asked Conservative donors to secretly pay for Downing Street refurbishments.
Labour is expected to pile further pressure on the government over claims made by Johnson’s former aide, Dominic Cummings, that the PM wanted donors to “secretly pay for the renovation” of his official flat, in a move called “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal” by the ex-Vote Leave campaigner.
Asked about the allegations, defence secretary Ben Wallace said Johnson had paid “out of his own pocket” for the Downing Street upgrade.
Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Do I think the Prime Minister is sleazy? No, I don’t.
The Opposition will ask commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle to grant an urgent question requiring a minister to come to the House to respond to the charge that Johnson plotted for Tory donors to put up the money for the work.
But during a round of broadcast interviews Wallace repeatedly refused to say whether the bill was initially settled by the Tory Party, or one of its donors, in which case it should have been declared as a loan under party funding rules.
Labour’s Kate Green said there were “very troubling allegations” surrounding the work at the Number 11 flat, as her party called for the Electoral Commission, which has been looking into the matter, to start a full inquiry into how the changes were funded.
The shadow education secretary told the Today programme: “I’m glad they (the Electoral Commission) are looking into it because clearly these are very troubling allegations and they go to the heart of ethics and integrity in our Government, and transparency”.
In an apparent reference to the briefings battle with former de facto chief of staff Cummings, Green said the government had been “fighting like rats in a sack”.
The Electoral Commission, which first raised the issue with the Conservatives more than a month ago, confirmed at the weekend it was still looking into whether any of the sums relating to the work on the flat should have been declared.
Last week, the Daily Mail published details of an email from Tory peer Lord Brownlow in which he said he was making a £58,000 donation to the party “to cover the payments the party has already made on behalf of the soon-to-be-formed ‘Downing Street Trust’”.
To date, no such trust has been formed.
Fund our Investigations Unit
You can help us investigate corruption, expose injustice and uncover the truth.
As one of the only independent investigations units in the country, we work for you – but we need your help to keep going. We need to raise £10,000 to continue our groundbreaking investigations. Can you chip in?