Date Clash Shows PM’s Denials to Lord Geidt Untrue

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…

mdi-timer 9 December 2021 @ 11:59 9 Dec 2021 @ 11:59 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Boris and Carrie Have Second Child

“Prime Minister Boris Johnson and wife Carrie have announced the birth of a healthy baby girl at a London hospital earlier today”It’s all go today…

mdi-timer 9 December 2021 @ 10:08 9 Dec 2021 @ 10:08 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Tories Fined £17,800 by Electoral Commission

It just one thing after another for No. 10 this morning, as the Electoral Commission fines them £17,800 for failing to “accurately report a donation and keep a proper accounting record” in regards to the Downing Street flat refurb:

“The investigation looked at whether any transactions relating to works at 11 Downing Street fell within the regime regulated by the Commission and whether any such funding was reported as required.

The investigation found that the party failed to fully report a donation of £67,801.72 from Huntswood Associates Limited in October 2020. The donation included £52,801.72 connected to the costs of refurbishment to 11 Downing Street. The full value of the donation was not reported as required in the party’s Q4 2020 donation report.

The Commission also concluded that the reference in the party’s financial records to the payment of £52,801.72 made by the party for the refurbishment was not accurate.”

It never rains but it pours…

mdi-timer 9 December 2021 @ 09:45 9 Dec 2021 @ 09:45 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Whose Head Will Roll Over Downing Street Parties?

Downing Street’s Christmas party problem continues to ramp up, not least now it’s become more prominent in the public’s consciousness that there were multiple parties during the November and December lockdowns. Public anger is boiling and a senior head will have to roll. Who was responsible for the events?

There are three alleged drinks sessions contested during lockdown in Downing Street:

Boris reportedly said a few words at Lee Cain’s leaving event on November 13, if that event was accompanied by a few bottles of Downing Street claret it is arguably a leaving party. Incidentally, Boris was pinged and went into self-isolation on November 16… 

Cleo Watson’s leaving drinks was on November 27, reportedly Boris came in and made a speech, mentioning how crowded it was in the room before leaving shortly afterwards. This doesn’t sound like an event compliant with the rules.

If, as the BBC reports, the December party was for the press team, it would have to have been authorised, or at least not vetoed, by then-director of communications James Slack. Since he has departed to The Sun it makes it more difficult for No. 10 to blame him for subsequently assuring the PM that no rules were broken. If, however, current director of communications Jack Doyle was at the party, and has been briefing it didn’t happen, that would make life very difficult for him. It was Max Blain, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson, who briefed the Lobby on Monday that there was no party.

Despite being the poster girl for this story, Allegra Stratton was not in charge of the Downing Street press operation at the time of these events, according to the leaked video she did not stay for the party in question and certainly is not responsible for briefing the PM or the Lobby about the nature or (non)-existence of the party this week. Ultimately the PM must take responsibility for his advisors and their actions. Boris’s errors at PMQs today, not least denying Lee Cain’s leaving do was a party on November 13 and being bounced by Starmer into agreeing to hand over any evidence to the Metropolitan Police and the CPS, has compounded his difficulties.  The Cabinet Secretary Simon Case is to head an internal inquiry, though currently Downing Street can’t confirm or deny if he attended the party. Allegra resigning over a party for which she wasn’t responsible might not be the end of this…

N.B. This was written before Allegra Stratton resigned.

mdi-timer 8 December 2021 @ 15:42 8 Dec 2021 @ 15:42 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Starmer: “Ant and Dec Are Ahead of the Prime Minister On This”
mdi-timer 8 December 2021 @ 12:50 8 Dec 2021 @ 12:50 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Boris Announces No. 10 Party Inquiry: “I Was Also Furious to See That Clip”

He continues to maintain a party didn’t happen however has announced Simon Case will carry out an investigation and if any rule-breaking did take place disciplinary measures will be taken. Keir Starmer gets laughs by saying Ant and Dec are more on top of events than the PM. That’s weeks more of the story dragging on…

mdi-timer 8 December 2021 @ 12:08 8 Dec 2021 @ 12:08 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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