Boris Johnson offered a “humble and heartfelt apology” to his standards adviser for not disclosing an exchange of messages with a Tory peer where he discussed funding for the renovation of his Downing Street apartment – and blamed the getting a new phone for failing to report the conversation.
In a series of letters between the Prime Minister and his independent adviser on the interests of ministers, Lord Geidt, it was revealed that Mr Johnson had raised “security concerns” for him who had not previously shared the messages.
The prime minister has since offered his “humble and sincere apologies” for not making the exchange available.
In April last year, it was revealed that Mr Johnson’s personal cell phone number had been freely available on the internet for 15 years, forcing the Prime Minister to switch devices.
In those WhatsApp messages, from November 2020, the Prime Minister described the current state of his Downing Street apartment as “a bit of a tip” and said he wished interior designer Luly Lytle ” continues “the renovation.
Mr Johnson’s messages have been sent to multimillionaire Conservative donor Lord Brownlow, who has provided £ 112,500 for the refurbishment of the apartment above number 11 which the Prime Minister shares with his wife Carrie.
In response, Lord Brownlow – who was planning to set up a trust to fund the renovation of Downing Street – told Mr Johnson he would “settle it as soon as possible”.
He added: “The approval is a snap because it’s just me and I know where the pounds are going to come from, so as soon as Lulu calls we can crack.”
Full text by Boris Johnson to Tory donor asking for more £££ to renovate his private apartment
Boris Johnson was again authorized by Lord Geidt as there is no evidence that the Prime Minister knew that the trust project chaired by Lord Brownlow was funded by Lord Brownlow himself pic.twitter.com/F1lIW2CHIQ
– Sam Coates Sky (@SamCoatesSky) January 6, 2022
The WhatsApp messages were only revealed by an Election Commission investigation on the flat row of Downing Street and were not disclosed to Lord Geidt’s own investigation into the case.
Before the conclusion of the Election Commission investigation, Lord Geidt had cleared the Prime Minister of breaking ministerial rules regarding the renovation of his Downing Street apartment.
In his report, the crossbench peer – who was previously the Queen’s private secretary – said the PM told him he didn’t know how the renovation was being paid for until the end of February 2021.
In letters released Thursday, Lord Geidt expressed his anger that he was not informed of the November 2020 messages when he investigated the case; and therefore allowed his report to be contradicted by the Election Commission investigation.
He wrote to Mr Johnson that he was “of serious concern” that no attempt was made to retrieve the messages even after the release of his report in June of last year and when “the device went again been consulted for other purposes “.
Lord Geidt told the Prime Minister that this provided “evidence of insufficient attention to the role of your independent adviser”.
However, he added that the revelation of the messages does not alter his “fundamental assessment” that Mr Johnson did not break ministerial rules in funding the renovation of his apartment.
In his response to Lord Geidt of December 21, the Prime Minister wrote: “I am sorry that the office of the independent adviser was put in this position and I can only repeat the humble and sincere apologies I offered when we discussed this issue earlier today. . “
He added: “You understand the security issues at the time meant I didn’t have access to my old device and didn’t remember the message exchange.”
However, some have wondered why WhatsApp messages would have been lost if the Prime Minister changed his personal phone number for security reasons.
WhatsApp offers tips on how chat history can be kept even when changing phone number or when using a new device.
Deputy Labor Party leader Angela Rayner said: “Boris Johnson has little respect for the rules or the truth.
“The ministerial code obliges ministers to act with transparency and honesty. It is simply impossible to read these exchanges and conclude that the Prime Minister did not violate these aspects of the code.
“Once again, in trying to hide the truth, Boris Johnson is undermining his own office. The Prime Minister’s pathetic apology will not fool anyone, and it is just the latest in a long string of sorry episodes.
“It matters because it is important to know who has influence over our government in a democracy.
“The British public cannot WhatsApp to a wealthy donor to open their wallet on demand, and the least it deserves is transparency about who is funding their prime minister.”
Following the fury over the apartment’s renovation, Lytle’s company Soane Britain reimbursed the Cabinet Office which, in turn, reimbursed the Conservative Party.
Mr Johnson then personally paid for the costs of the renovation, which would have included gold wallpaper at £ 840 a roll.