UK Conservative Party fined £17,800 over PM’s flat refurbishment

Cash was used to spruce up the flat Boris Johnson shares with his wife

Britain's Conservative Party has been fined for failing to record a donation to refurbish Boris Johnson's flat.  AP

Britain’s ruling Conservative Party has been fined £17,800 ($23,547) for its failure to keep proper records over a donation to refurbish Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s flat.

The penalty was levied on the party in relation to a donation of £67,801.72 from Huntswood Associates Limited in October 2020, including £52,801.72 connected to the costs of refurbishment at 11 Downing Street.

The prime minister lives in the flat with his third wife Carrie Johnson, who gave birth to the couple’s second child on Thursday.

An investigation carried out by the Electoral Commission, an independent body which regulates public finances in the UK, found that the Tory party had failed to abide by laws on the reporting of any donations received.

“Our investigation into the Conservative Party found that the laws around the reporting and recording of donations were not followed,” said Louise Edwards, director of regulation at the Electoral Commission.

“We know that voters have concerns about the transparency of funding of political parties.

“Reporting requirements are in place so that the public can see where money is coming from, and inaccurate reporting risks undermining trust in the system.

Embargoed until 2200 18072020….14/07/2020. London, United Kingdom. Boris Johnson and Carrie NHS Call.The Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds with their son Wilfred in the study of No10 Downing Street speaking via zoom to the midwifes that helped deliver their son at the UCLH. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

“The party’s decisions and actions reflected serious failings in its compliance systems.

“As a large and well-resourced political party that employs compliance and finance experts, and that has substantial sums of money going through its accounts, the Conservative Party should have sufficiently robust systems in place to meet its legal reporting requirements.”

It was also found that the party's financial record on the payment of £52,801.72 that was made for the refurbishment “was not accurate".

The party was fined £16,250 for failing to report the full value of the donation and £1,550 for contravening the requirement to keep proper accounting records.

The refurbishment of the flat came after Mr Johnson moved into Downing Street in July 2019, and was reported to have cost about £200,000.

Mrs Johnson is believed to have chosen £850-a-roll gold wallpaper by designer Lulu Lytle to line the walls of the flat.

The fine is another blow to the Prime Minister’s authority as he reels from the scandal surrounding the alleged lockdown-breaking Christmas party at Downing Street last year.

Last week, news reports claimed the gathering was held on December 18, when social events were prohibited under coronavirus restrictions. Mr Johnson repeatedly refused to say whether a party had taken place, only saying “guidelines were followed at all times”.

On Tuesday a leaked video showed the prime minister’s then press secretary Allegra Stratton laughing and joking about a “fictional” festive party, at which aides were served cheese and wine and social distancing rules were not observed.

Following the leak, there was silence from the government on Wednesday morning and ministers pulled out of a series of scheduled media interviews. Mr Johnson broke his silence at the weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons by saying he was “furious” about the video and had ordered an internal investigation to determine whether a party was held. He apologised to the British public “for the offence it has caused up and down the country”.

But critics have warned the public’s trust in him has been damaged and a Sky News poll showed just 12 per cent of people think he is telling the truth about not knowing about a party.

Hours later, Ms Stratton resigned from her top role as the government’s spokeswoman for Cop26. In a tearful apology delivered outside her north London home, referring to comments she had made in the video making light of Covid rules, she said: “I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days.”

Updated: December 9th 2021, 11:36 AM