The average household income in the UK, as calculated by the Office for National Statistics, is currently £29,900 – or £100 less than the public grant the Prime Minister is afforded every year to redecorate his home.
To most, that’s an incredible amount of money for the likes of wallpaper, furniture and lamps but to Boris Johnson the fund was reportedly nowhere near enough to deal with the “John Lewis nightmare” he inherited from his predecessor.
In fact, reports have suggested the renovations Johnson and his fiancée Carrie Symonds undertook last year could have cost as much as £200,000, which is not so outlandish if the wallpaper was really coming in at £800 a roll.
However, we don’t know exactly how much was spent, nor do we know who initially footed the bill as, despite being questioned at the despatch box in parliament, the prime minister has continually dodged all the questions surrounding the controversial refurbishments.
Some may ask why such a nominal thing as interior design is so important, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic. But knowing how, why and from whom our politicians received money has never been more vital, especially as we keep hearing reports of lucrative government contracts being awarded to companies run by donors, mates and relatives of our country’s most powerful leaders.
If money comes from a party donor, how can we know they won’t expect unfair favouritism in return? Transparency is, after all, the cornerstone of our political system. The Electoral Commission has launched an investigation into the funding of works on Number 11 Downing Street, and I hope the spending watchdog will get some answers. However, for me, this whole controversy raises more questions than just whether the spending complied with the laws on political donations.
As we endure one of the most traumatic periods in history, much of the country has struggled with work, money, mental health and grief. Businesses, including the likes of John Lewis, have worried about whether they can reopen their doors. Children have been isolated from friends and family. At the same time, the PM has been spending more than six times the average salary on soft furnishings and sofas. Well, how much more out of touch can you be?
It’s telling that most of the leaks surrounding Boris’s decisions seem to have come from his former adviser Dominic Cummings who, let’s not forget, was public enemy No 1 after his eye test at Barnard Castle last year.
Cummings described the funding of the flat renovation as “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal”, which is rather ironic to say the least. But he was the power behind the Johnson throne, as it were, so if anyone can blow the whistle, it is probably him.
I think it’s right that journalists, politicians and the public alike keep pressing the PM for answers, and I can only hope this controversy doesn’t just get swept under the (probably very expensive) carpet.
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