Sir Keir Starmer denies turning up at John Lewis was a 'stunt'

30 April 2021, 16:40 | Updated: 30 April 2021, 17:50

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has denied a trip to John Lewis to look at wallpaper was a "stunt".
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has denied a trip to John Lewis to look at wallpaper was a "stunt". Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has denied a trip to John Lewis to look at wallpaper was a "stunt".

Sir Keir was accused by Conservative Party co-chairman Amanda Milling of "playing politics" on the issue after being pictured browsing the wallpaper section of the John Lewis store in Manchester's Trafford Centre.

His visit followed reports the Downing Street refurbishment was inspired by a desire to change what a visitor described as the "John Lewis furniture nightmare" left by Theresa May.

Read more: Electoral Commission announces formal investigation into Boris Johnson's flat refurb

Read more: Iain Duncan Smith brands Keir Starmer's John Lewis wallpaper visit 'ludicrous stunt'

Questions have since been raised about where the money came from for the refurbishment, with some reports suggesting the upgrades hit the £200,000 mark - far above the £30,000 annual allowance.

Reports have suggested wallpaper costing up to £840 a roll was used in the Downing Street flat refurbishment.

The Electoral Commission has now launched an investigation into how the new look was funded.

Johnson is facing an investigation over where the funds have come from to refurbish the flat
Johnson is facing an investigation over where the funds have come from to refurbish the flat. Picture: PA

Speaking to LBC on Friday, Sir Keir denied his trip to the retailer was a stunt, because the topic goes to "basic questions of honesty".

"No. I don't turn my nose up at John Lewis, I support John Lewis, and I just want the Prime Minister to answer the basic question," he told LBC's Vicki Smith.

"I asked him it at Prime Minister's Questions he didn't answer it. He's been asked by the media, he hasn't answered it.

"I don't think this was a stunt, because this really matters. Is the Prime Minister telling the truth? It goes to basic questions of honesty. If he wants to deal with this, if he wants to deal with it and reassure people he should get a camera and stand in front of it this morning and answer the question."

Asked if he regretted being pictured browsing the homeware department, the Labour leader added: "I don't turn my nose up at John Lewis, that's the difference.

"I'm very proud to support John Lewis, obviously this is all about the redecoration of the Prime Minister's flat and anybody who wants this story to move on should be saying to the Prime Minister 'just answer the question -who paid for the refurbishment of your flat?'"

Boris Johnson's fiancee Symonds, 33, reportedly saw the lavish overhaul as necessary to rid the Prime Minister's residence of the "John Lewis nightmare" left behind by Mrs May, according to Tatler.

But Mr Johnson today insisted he does like the retailer during a visit to King Solomon Academy in west London.

He said: "The one thing I object to in this whole farrago of nonsense is I love John Lewis.

"But what I will say is what people want this Government to do is focus on their priorities."