PM’s standards adviser ‘could quit’ after being ‘misled’ about Downing Street flat refurb

The Electoral Commission uncovered WhatsApp messages which Boris Johnson failed to hand over to Lord Geidt
Lord Christopher Geidt. Photo: PA Images/Alamy Stock

By Tevye Markson

10 Dec 2021

Boris Johnson’s independent standards adviser could resign due to being “'misled”’ by the prime minister over the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, according to reports.

The Electoral Commission has fined the Conservative Party £17,800 after finding it failed to declare a donation of £52,801 towards the cost of the No.11 flat.

The Electoral Commission report also revealed the PM may have misled his independent adviser on ministers' interests, Christopher Geidt, who had previously carried out his own investigation.

Johnson had assured Lord Geidt he knew nothing about payments made towards the refurbishment by Tory peer David Brownlow until February 2021.

Yet the Electoral Commission obtained WhatsApp messages sent in November 2020, in which the PM asked Lord Brownlow “to authorise further, at that stage unspecified, refurbishment works on the residence”.

Brownlow messaged back agreeing to do so, explaining that the proposed trust had not yet been set up but that he knew where the funding was coming from.

Geidt is “deeply unhappy” with the situation and could resign or try to reopen his investigation, according to the FT, while sources told the Telegraph the standards adviser will consider resigning if Johnson cannot explain why he did not hand over the WhatsApp messages.

Earlier this year, the Cabinet Office, responding to a freedom of information request asking for WhatsApp messages between Johnson and Brownlow about the funding of the Downing Street flat refurbishment, told Times reporter George Grylls there were no such messages.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has called for parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Stone to investigate the PM, saying his conduct “misled the public, along with the independent adviser”.

The PM’s spokesperson said there is no inconsistency between the two investigations, as Johnson only knew that Brownlow was organising the donations to pay for the refurbishment works, not that he was the donor himself.

Johnson’s last independent standards adviser Alex Allan resigned in November 2020 after the PM overruled his finding that Home Office secretary Priti Patel had bullied civil servants and breached the ministerial code.

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