The controversial renovation of Boris Johnson’s apartment last year led the Conservative Party to break election laws by using funds donated by a wealthy party donor to cover its cost without the money being properly declared, a ruled the Election Commission.
The redecoration of the flat above 11 Downing Street caused a storm in April when it emerged that the job would have cost up to £ 200,000, although the Prime Minister only receives an annual stipend of 30 £ 000 from taxpayers to spend on his house.
Now, after weeks of ‘Tory sleaze’ allegations involving Northern Ireland’s first former secretary Owen Paterson, then former Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox and House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg – and with Mr Johnson again under fire with a Westminster Christmas party reportedly took place on December 18, 2020 as the rest of the country faced heavy social restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic – the question comes to the fore from the scene.
Unveiling the commission’s findings and fining £ 17,800, its chief regulatory officer Louise Edwards said: ‘Our investigation into the Conservative Party found that laws regarding the declaration and recording of donations do not were not respected.
The ruling makes it clear that the Tories were negligent in failing to “fully report a donation of £ 67,801.72 from Huntswood Associates Limited in October 2020”.
His report says the giveaway included £ 52,801.72 related to the costs of renovating 11 Downing Street, but it was “not flagged as required” in the party’s donation report for the last quarter of 2020.
The party’s reference to this amount in the renovation financial record was “not correct,” the commission wrote, as it had been recorded as a “blind trust loan.”
“We know voters are concerned about the transparency of political party funding,” said Edwards. “Reporting requirements are in place so the public can see where the money is coming from, inaccurate reporting can undermine confidence in the system. “
Mr Johnson and his then-fiancée and now wife Carrie Johnson, who just gave birth to the couple’s second child, enlisted the services of interior designer Lulu Lytle, co-founder of Soane Britain, for the latest refurbishment of the property.
Ms. Lytle’s portfolio has been described as “glamorous” and “decadent” by Tatler.
According to reports, the apartment renovation was led by Ms Johnson and was carried out during the lockdown last year, with Ms Lytle spotted on the property in October 2020.
Downing Street and Cabinet ministers initially insisted that the Prime Minister paid for the work himself until embarrassing questions began to be asked.
Prior to Mr Johnson, the apartment was occupied by his predecessor Theresa May, whose decorating taste was vehemently described by Mrs Johnson as a ‘John Lewis furniture nightmare’.
According to The evening standard, Mrs May and her husband Philip barely made any major changes to the apartment when they moved in, opting instead for decoration only with functional furniture, including a red three-seater sofa, a chrome table lamp John Lewis which costs £ 100 and a Habitat Glass Coffee Table for £ 195.
While former assistant No.10 Gavin Barwell said Radio schedules in April that the apartment was “perfectly nice” when the new tenants moved in, Ms Johnson would have liked to get rid of the “moody” mood.
The lobby floor was stripped and polished and the living room was painted dark green, according to reports. It’s likely that Ms. Lytle’s expertise and redecorating work absorbed much of the money spent.
Some of its clients include high-end interior designers, decorators and architects, as well as such figures as Rolling Stone Sir Mick Jagger.
She is also known to have at least one royal connection: Prince Charles visited his famous rattan workshop in Leicestershire last February.
Further details of the makeover emerged in May, including the embarrassing revelation that the £ 840-per-roll gold wallpaper chosen by Ms Johnson continued to fall and had to be hung up.
The specific problem with the wallpaper, considered to be Soane’s Old Gold or Yellow Gold design, would have been that it was heavier than the cheaper, lighter, mass-produced type more commonly available in home improvement stores.
The wallpaper is described on Soane’s website as being “made in British factories and workshops, using traditional methods such as screen printing” in order to “capture the feel of handcrafted products”.
An insider said The daily mail back in the days when the lavish new furnishings also included a new sofa upholstered in a ruby and emerald material known as Damascus Stripe, which, according to its designer, is “based on an original 19th-century Syrian pattern woven from of cotton and silk “.
Her new curtains are said to be Soane’s Tendril Vine pattern, also in emerald, a choice the newspaper attributed to Ms Johnson’s passion for the environment.