Downing Street refurbishment scandal

Did the PM act dishonestly?

It’s a question that has dogged Boris Johnson throughout his career, stretching back to long before he became Prime Minister – is he, to put it bluntly, an habitual liar? His friends and closest allies in government would and frequently have answered “No” to the question, whilst often at the same time assuring us that he is doing a great job as Prime Minister. The man himself, when pressed hard, will also answer “No” (but then he would, wouldn’t he?) before speedily moving on to safer ground with his well-known bluster and diversionary tactics.

And if the going gets uncomfortably tough, as it did over the Sir James Dyson leaked text exchanges when the Prime Minister said he would “fix” a tax issue for the millionaire entrepreneur, Johnson will sometimes go on the attack, saying in that particular case that “people don’t actually give a monkey’s” because he was acting in the nation’s best interest during the early stages of the coronavirus crisis. And judging by the big Tory win in last month’s Hartlepool by-election and the equally impressive local council gains these tactics appear to be working.

Both the Party and Prime Minister seem even more popular than when winning the 2019 general election with a huge majority. But let’s not forget that Johnson is a man who has previously been twice sacked for dishonesty, by The Times in 1988 for making up quotes, and by the Tory Party in 2004, when shadow arts minister, for lying about an affair. So, what then about the Downing Street flat refurbishment controversy, with the allegations by Johnson’s former top advisor Dominic Cummings that Conservative Party funds were initially involved, contrary to the Prime Minister’s claims? A cost of £200,000 for the job has been quoted, and with wallpaper coming in at £800 a roll even that figure might be modest.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly insisted that he met all costs “personally”, but the crucial, and to date unanswered question, is at what stage of the proceedings did he pay? There are claims of a £58,000 loan from a Tory donor to help foot the initial bill. If that is the case, then Johnson is in breach of legal donation reporting requirements. Formal investigations continue, but with the Prime Minister himself overseeing all, does that necessarily mean that the truth will finally be revealed?

What our surveys show

If the various inquiries into whether or not the Prime Minister acted dishonestly in regard to the way he paid for and subsequently spoke about the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat were in the hands of our readers, then the outcome would be fairly conclusive: 60% of those surveyed believed he did exactly that and only 23% thought the opposite. More women than men were prepared to disbelieve
the Prime Minister, while 17% didn’t know.

A combined 71% felt that the allegations made by Dominic Cummings regarding the flat issue plus the matter of the Prime Minister ignoring advice to lock down more quickly during the second wave of Covid-19 were either “definitely” or “probably” true. Only a combined 23% thought the opposite and 6% said they “don’t know”. Finally a combined 65% of those surveyed reckon that Boris Johnson is an habitual liar, with 21% “totally agreeing” and 44% “somewhat agreeing” with former Commons Speaker John Bercow’s comment that the Prime Minister is someone who has a general “disregard for the truth”. A combined 29% disagreed and again, 6% said “don’t know”.

 

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