“I CAN’T AFFORD IT.” Boris Johnson reportedly told aides he could not afford the Downing Street flat’s lavish new decor.
- UK’s Prime Minister allegedly complained he could not afford the Downing Street renovations his fiancé has ordered.
- Downing Street says the refurbishment costs “have been met by the Prime Minister personally.”
- Johnson’s advisers called the issue “Wallpaper-gate.”
United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson supposedly complained to aides that his fiancé Carrie Symonds is buying “gold wallpapers” he cannot afford.
As reported by Daily Mail, the PM allegedly said:
“The cost is totally out of control – she’s buying gold wallpaper!”
When the assistants asked him about the price of the renovations, he replied:
“Tens and tens of thousands – I can’t afford it.”
Although it is unclear whether Johnson was speaking metaphorically, the Soane Britain company commissioned by Symonds actually sells gold wallpapers.
The Cabinet Office informed the PM there was a £30,000-a-year($42,000) publicly funded allowance for redecorating the Downing Street estate.
The rest £58,000($80,000) would have to be paid by Johnson himself. Upon learning this information, Symonds confronted Helen MacNamara, Director General of Propriety and Ethics in the Cabinet Office. What’s more, Johnson’s fiancé reportedly asked UK’s Prime Minister to fire MacNamara after she refused to sign off extra funds for the estate.
According to the outlet, Johnson is said to struggle to make ends meet following his expensive divorce with ex-wife Marina Wheeler. Moreover, the PM also loses an estimated £250,000($345,000) a year from his journalistic career, despite having a £150,000-a-year($208,000) salary.
Johnson’s advisers called the issue “Wallpaper-gate.”
One question remained: Who was going to pay the wallpaper company and how?
Reportedly, the PM first intended to ask Tory donor Lord Bamford, chairman of JCB, for the £58,000. However, this option was discarded due to unclear reasons.
By last June, the Cabinet Office is believed to had paid the entire cost, including those £58,000. Still, the “excess” money had to be paid back.
Afterward, Johnson’s team suggested a “blind trust” to “preserve Downing Street for posterity,” but it was speculated that the real reason was to recover the extra £58,000. Nevertheless, the proposal was soon abandoned.
Wallpaper-gate continued with the PM asking multi-millionaire Tory donor Lord Brownlow to set up a new, more open trust.
However, it was revealed that such a trust could violate Electoral Commission rules, stating that party funds should be used for political campaigning. So, the party launched “an extraordinary apparent attempt to disguise the payment.”
In October, Johnson reportedly discussed his financial issues in No 10 with Attorney General Lord Goldsmith.
Furthermore, Daily Mail revealed there was a leaked e-mail from October 23, in which Lord Brownlow tells Tory chairman Ben Elliot that he has made a “donation” of £58,000 to Tory HQ. The sum aimed to cover the excess money paid by the Cabinet Office. Additionally, he said the donation was to be attributed to the “soon-to-be-formed Downing Trust.”
Earlier this week, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case said that the money cannot be used for renovating Downing Street’s No 10 and No 11.
In the meantime, it was said that the PM has met the refurbishment costs personally, although, the £58,000 was not mentioned.
Commenting on Wallpaper-gate, former Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell recently said:
“Prime ministers have to set an example and should abide by the rules which are there for a good reason. He needs to concentrate on issues like Covid and the way to do that is to abide by the rules.”