Liz Truss Rejects A "Stench Is Hanging Over Government" But Doesn't Deny Donors Paid For No.10 Flat Refurb
Liz Truss has failed to deny a Conservative party donor gave Boris Johnson money to fund his flat refurbishment as Labour piles more pressure on the Prime Minister explain to Parliament how the work was paid for.
Truss, the secretary of state for international trade, told Sky News on Sunday that she believed Johnson "acted completely in line with the rules" and that "proper information has been declared in the public domain".
However, she dodged several questions about when exactly the Prime Minister met the costs of the refurbishment amid claims that a Tory party donor initially paid for the work, who Johnson reimbursed at a later date.
Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's former chief adviser, published an explosive blog on Friday which, among other things, accused Johnson of once planning for the flat refurbishment to be "secretly" paid for by Conservative party donors.
Cummings said he told Johnson the plan was "unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended".
In other developments:
- There is speculation that Cummings possesses audio recordings that he could use to do further damage to the Prime Minister, according to The Sunday Times.
- There is fear within government that Cummings will give a "treasure trove" of confidential records to a committee carrying out an inquiry into the UK's pandemic response which will reflect terribly on Johnson and his ministers, The Telegraph reports.
- Eddie Lister, one of Johnson's closest advisers, was the director of a firm planning to build a "Hong Kong" in Libya, while serving as a non-executive director at the Foreign Office, PoliticsHome exclusively revealed.
The Prime Minister's flat refurbishment is just one of several awkward questions facing the government as it becomes further engulfed in accusations of croynism and more revelations about lobbying of ministers.
Truss said the story about Johnson's refurbishment was "tittle tattle" and "a huge distraction from what people actually care about which is how we are dealing with the pandemic”.
But Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, told the BBC's Andrew Marr there was a "real stench hanging over the government" and called on the government to publish the most recent details of donations to the Conservative party.
Shadow minister Jess Phillips told Sky News there needed to be a "proper, root and branch” independent investigation into lobbying of the government.
Phillips confirmed that Labour was pushing for the government to answer an Urgent Question on Cummings' accusations in the House of Commons this week.The row over lobbying was initially prompted by reports on efforts by former prime minister David Cameron to secure government-backed loans for Greensill, a firm he was appointed to advise in 2018.
Since then, a number of stories have emerged which Labour says point to "sleaze" in government.
Johnson has this week been under pressure to explain text messages between himself and businessman James Dyson at the beginning of the pandemic in which the Prime Minister said he would make sure Dyson's staff would not have to pay extra tax while building ventilators.
“Nobody is saying people can’t lobby," Labour MP Phillips said this morning.
"What shouldn’t happen is people lobbying for commercial gain for them and their mates and businesses in my constituency should be able to lobby to get contracts to provide things that our country needs just as easily as Boris Johnson’s pals".
She added: "I don’t wish to skewer Boris Johnson for electoral gain.
"I wish to skewer him as a taxpayer and someone who wants to see politics made honest so that people can trust politicians and feel part of our system again".
PoliticsHome revealed on Saturday that Eddie Lister, one of Johnson's closest advisers, was the director of a firm planning to build a "Hong Kong" in Libya, while serving as a non-executive director at the Foreign Office.