Following the Electoral Commission’s Tory fine this morning, Sam Coates has highlighted an evidential inconsistency which will significantly add to the difficulties facing the Prime Minister. In Lord Geidt’s Annual Report by the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interest he says of the investigation into the payments for the refurbishing of the Downing Street flat in February 2021:
For the credibility of this inquiry, I have tested the assertions of Lord Brownlow and the relevant political and government officials that at no point in the eight months until late February 2021, as media reports were emerging, was the Prime Minister made aware of either the fact or the method of the costs of refurbishing the apartment having been paid. I have spoken to these individuals in person; they have confirmed to me that these assertions are correct. In particular, Lord Brownlow behaved in a confidential manner consistent with his own experience of blind trusts. I have also spoken in similar terms to the Prime Minister who confirms that he knew nothing about such payments until immediately prior to media reports in February 2021. At that point, the Prime Minister immediately sought the necessary advice about his interests and, as a consequence, settled the full amount himself on 8 March 2021.
However in today’s Electoral Commission’s report into the refurbishing of the Downing Street flat they found (after serving a legal notice for production of evidence) a WhatsApp message from the Prime Minister to Lord Brownlow about payments from the year before:
“29 November 2020: the Prime Minister messaged Lord Brownlow via WhatsApp asking him to authorise further, at that stage unspecified, refurbishment works on the residence. Lord Brownlow agreed to do so, and also explained that the proposed trust had not yet been set up but that he knew where the funding was coming from.”
How can the funding have been via a blind trust with the PM unaware of the backers until media reports in February 2021, if he was texting the backer for cash in November the year before? This inconsistency is hard to reconcile…