'It's a tip': Boris 'sorry' as missing messages emerge over Downing Street flat refurb

6 January 2022, 17:33 | Updated: 7 January 2022, 01:23

Boris Johnson has apologised over missing messages about the No11 refurb
Boris Johnson has apologised over missing messages about the No11 refurb. Picture: Alamy/gov.uk

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has apologised for failing to provide messages between himself and a Tory peer over the Downing Street flat refurbishment.

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Newly-disclosed messages, which were sent in November 2020, reveal he told David Brownlow the PM's residence was a "bit of a tip" and he was "keen" to get a luxury interior designer to "get on with it".

The works to No11 ran higher than £112,500.

Mr Johnson has now apologised to Lord Geidt, the ministerial standards adviser who investigated the refurbishment, for failing to provide the exchange during his inquiries.

Lord Geidt found out about the messages from an Electoral Commission report, which fined the Conservatives for not following the law about donations last month.

In a letter, released on Thursday, the PM said he was "sorry that the Office of Independent Adviser has been put in this position" and that he can "only repeat the humble and sincere apology" he had previously offered.

The Prime Minister said he did not have access to the phone from which the WhatsApp correspondence was sent and that he "did not recall the message exchange".

He added: "A fuller explanation of the circumstances should have been provided at the time of your investigation. I am sorry we did not do so."

Read more: Conservative Party hit with £17,800 fine over PM flat refurb

Lord Geidt, who published the messages, said the saga "shook my confidence" because of "real failures of process".

In the missing exchange, Mr Johnson told Lord Brownlow: "Hi David I am afraid parts of our flat are still a bit of a tip and am keen to allow Lulu Lytle to get on with it. Can I possibly ask her to get in touch with you for approvals?"

Lord Brownlow replied: "Sorry for the delay I was out for a walk and didn't have my 'work' phone with me. Of course, get Lulu to call me and we'll get it sorted ASAP!"

He added: "I should have said, as the Trust isn't set up yet (will be in January) approval is a doddle as it's only me and I know where the £ will come from, so as soon as Lulu calls we can crack on."

The PM hoped the trust would cover the cost of the refurbishment, which went well above a £30,000 allowance.

Labour's deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said: "Boris Johnson has little regard for the rules or the truth. The Ministerial Code requires ministers to act with transparency and honesty.

"It is simply impossible to read these exchanges and conclude that the Prime Minister has not breached these aspects of the Code.

"Once again, by attempting to hide the truth, Boris Johnson undermines his own office. The Prime Minister's pathetic excuses will fool no-one and this is just the latest in a long line of sorry episodes."