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Standards adviser seeks clarification from Boris Johnson over flat investigation

There are concerns the Prime Minister may have misled Lord Geidt.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Lord Geidt demanded clarification from No 10 after an Electoral Commission investigation into the refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s flat raised concerns the Prime Minister may have misled the standards adviser.

Labour has called for the ministerial standards adviser to reopen his investigation into the funding of the lavish renovations over “inconsistencies” between his report and a damning ruling from the Electoral Commission.

Downing Street did not deny suggestions Lord Geidt had been angered by the watchdog’s report raising doubts about the Prime Minister’s denial that he knew a Tory peer was behind donations for the works costing more than £112,500.

But it was understood the thinking inside No 10 was that Lord Geidt would not formally reopen his investigation after his latest discussions with Downing Street officials.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are liaising with Lord Geidt to answer any further questions he may have but beyond that I wouldn’t get into any private conversations he has with his independent adviser.”

He declined to say whether the peer has been provided with the WhatsApp messages between Mr Johnson and donor Lord Brownlow that the Electoral Commission saw and which prompted Labour to accuse the Prime Minister of lying to the adviser.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner wrote to Lord Geidt calling for him to inspect the apparent contradictions between his report from May and the election watchdog’s report from Thursday, which saw the Tories fined £17,800 for not following the law over donations to cover the work in No 11 from Lord Brownlow.

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11 Downing Street (Victoria Jones/PA)

11 Downing Street (Victoria Jones/PA)

PA

11 Downing Street (Victoria Jones/PA)

Lord Geidt, however, does not have the power to independently open investigations, with the Prime Minister rejecting calls to hand the adviser that ability.

The pressure comes as the Prime Minister faces an investigation into allegations of Covid rule-breaching parties in Downing Street last Christmas and anger from Tory MPs over fresh coronavirus restrictions.

In a statement, Ms Rayner said: “We now know that in the days before he imposed the 2021 winter lockdown, the Prime Minister went from allegedly hosting an illegal party in Downing Street to asking super-rich Tory donors to secretly fund the luxury refurb of his flat.

“Not only has the Conservative Party broken the law, but its Prime Minister has made a mockery of the standards we expect.

“If Boris Johnson refuses a fresh investigation, that standard will be lowered significantly – setting the bar woefully low for our country’s public life.”

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his wife Carrie (PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his wife Carrie (PA)

PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his wife Carrie (PA)

The Electoral Commission’s report raised further questions by discussing evidence that Mr Johnson had sent the Tory peer a WhatsApp message in November 2020 “asking him to authorise further, at that stage unspecified, refurbishment works on the residence”, to which he agreed.

This was despite Mr Johnson having told Lord Geidt he had no knowledge of the payments until immediately prior to media reports in February 2021.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman denied Mr Johnson had lied, insisting he has “acted in accordance with the rules at all times”.

In its defence, Downing Street said the Prime Minister did not know Lord Brownlow was providing the money to the “blind trust” he was organising.

Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner’s Office said it was asking questions after receiving a complaint over the Cabinet Office saying in a response to a Freedom of Information request from the Times that it had no records of any messages exchanged between Mr Johnson and Lord Brownlow.

“We’ve received a complaint regarding the Cabinet Office’s response to a freedom of information request around the renovation of the Downing Street flat, and will be making inquiries,” a statement read.

The Daily Telegraph reported Lord Geidt was on the verge of quitting after the Electoral Commission report was published, in what would be a significant blow to Mr Johnson’s premiership.

It would be the second ministerial standards adviser to Mr Johnson to resign amid scandal, after Sir Alex Allan quit in November last year after the Prime Minister sided with Home Secretary Priti Patel when the adviser found she broke the ministerial code with behaviour that amounted to bullying staff.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer challenged Tory MPs to remove Mr Johnson from office.

“He’s not fit for office and because he’s not fit for office, he won’t resign and the question really is for Tory members of the Cabinet, Tory MPs, to ask themselves are they prepared to put up with this,” Sir Keir told reporters during a visit to Northumberland.

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