Leaked docs show wealthy Tory donors put on PM's 'secret advisory board' during pandemic

20 February 2022, 14:08 | Updated: 20 February 2022, 14:19

Boris Johnson reportedly had a "secret advisory board" of Tory donors, who met with Lord Udny-Lister
Boris Johnson reportedly had a "secret advisory board" of Tory donors, who met with Lord Udny-Lister. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Leaked documents reveal Tory donors were given access to Boris Johnson's top team as part of a 'secret advisory board' during the pandemic.

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The wealthy donors were granted privileged access to the Prime Minister, ministers and advisers, according to The Times, where they voiced their 'alarm' about the impact of Covid restrictions on their businesses.

Their investments included those in property, construction and big tobacco.

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A source told the newspaper that Lord Udny-Lister, a loyal adviser to Mr Johnson whose salary is topped up by a Tory donor, implied to the secret advisory board that their concerns about Covid restrictions and requests for them to be relaxed would "go straight up to the PM".

As well as a presence on the board, they were also reportedly given contact details for ministers and advisers - which some used to lobby the Government - as well as advice applying for appointments and lucrative public contracts signed off by Mr Johnson himself.

One of those on the advisory board is dual national Lubov Chernukhin.

The 50-year-old is the wife of President Putin's former deputy finance minister, and is said to have lobbied against higher tax for wealthy people.

On Sunday, foreign minister James Cleverly told LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday that all Tory donors were "legitimate".

"The people donate to the Conservative party because they support our aims or objectives – conservative party policy, unlike labour party policy, has never been dictated by our political donors," he told Tom Swarbrick.

He said "everyone can feed their ideas into their local MP" and that Ms Chernukhin "has every right to donate to us or any other political party".

"All our donors are registered, are legitimate," he said.

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Responding to the report in The Times, SNP Deputy Westminster Leader, Kirsten Oswald MP said it was "absurd" Mr Johnson was still in office "after the long list of scandal and sleaze that seems to be endemic in his premiership".

"It is utterly absurd that Boris Johnson believes he can remain in office - indeed, it is absurd that he is even still in office after the long list of scandal and sleaze that seems to be endemic in his premiership," she said.

"Under Boris Johnson, the UK is in a state of constant chaos.

"Westminster is engulfed in sleaze, corruption and criminality, the Tory cost of living crisis is spiralling out of control, and his reckless hard Brexit has inflicted billions of pounds of damage to Scotland's economy.

"He should have gone long ago - and it is a disgrace that Tory MPs are continuing to sit on their hands and keep him in office.

"His arrogance is quite frankly dangerous."

The Times reports that multimillionaires were able to sit on the board if they made a £250,000 donation to the Tory party.

A meeting of the board - with Lord Udny-Lister talking with the donors on Microsoft Teams - took place at 3pm on the same day Mr Johnson was pictured having cheese and wine in the Downing Street garden.

Lord Udny-Lister was said to have been joined by Prince Charles's nephew Ben Elliot, 46, who serves as a Tory party chairman.

The board had more than a dozen members, three of whom were billionaires and six of whom appeared on The Sunday Times Rich List.

Whilst the existence of the board has not been formally admitted by the Tory Party, The Times reported that Lord Udny-Lister acknowledged it last night and said he attended it "when asked".