A furious Boris Johnson was grilled by the leaders of British opposition parties during parliamentary questions on Wednesday amid a row over a €70,000 refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.
The UK”s prime minister faced MPs on the day that the country’s electoral commission launched an investigation into whether Conservative Party donors paid for the work. If they had, the cost should have been declared under Britain’s law on political donations.
Dominic Cummings, a former aide to Johnson who left his job in 2020, has claimed that the prime minister wanted to get Conservative donors to fund the renovation of the apartment, which he currently lives in with his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, and their baby son, Wilfred.
Cummings said he told Johnson that the plan was “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal”.
The electoral commission has since said that there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect that an offence had been committed.
Since the scandal broke, Johnson’s office has said that he met the cost of the renovations, but did not clarify whether he was leant the money by donors in the first place.
On Wednesday, Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition party Labour, asked Johnson several times about how the work was funded, stressing that he wanted to know who “initially” paid for the work.
Johnson replied that he “paid for [the work] personally” and later said: “I have covered the cost.”
As Starmer pressed the prime minister on whether he initially paid for the renovation, pointing out that “have covered” does not mean he funded it when the bill was first settled, Johnson became increasingly angry, lashing out at Starmer over council tax hikes in Labour councils.
He then argued that when former Labour prime minister Tony Blair was in power the Downing Street flat was “tarted up” at a cost of more than £350,000.
On Wednesday, the electoral commission said that its investigation “will determine whether any transactions relating to the works at 11 Downing Street fall within the regime regulated by the Commission and whether such funding was reported as required.”
‘Bodies piled high’
Starmer also asked Johnson about a quote in the British media last week when the prime minister is said to have said he would rather see “bodies piled high” in the streets than take the country into another lockdown. Johnson denied using those words.
The thread was picked up by Scottish Nationalist leader Ian Blackford, who asked Johnson whether he was a liar. Johnson asked the speaker whether the question was out of order before answering that he had not made the comment in question.