The Speaker
Sunday, 21 July 2024 – 08:22
Photo by Number 10 Downing Street (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Downing Street rows: What challenges is the Prime Minister facing?

A number of rows relating to Downing Street have hit the headlines in recent days – here’s a look at some of the challenges facing Prime Minister Boris Johnson…


What is the row over the Prime Minister’s flat?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds reside in a flat above 11 Downing Street. Renovations on the flat were carried out, but it’s not clear over how expensive these renovations were or who paid for them.

The Prime Minister receives an annual grant of £30,000 to spend on the flat, but it has been speculated that renovations could have cost as much as £200,000.

The flat renovations have been in the news before, but they hit the headlines again over the weekend after the Prime Minister’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings claimed in his blog that the Prime Minister had ‘plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation’. Writing in his blog, Mr Cummings said ‘I refused to help him organise these payments’, describing the plans as ‘unethical, foolish, possibly illegal’.

Labour has called on the Prime Minister to reveal the full details of how much the renovations to the flat cost and who paid for them.


What is the problem here?

There are rules over transparency which mean that political parties have to report any donations they receive which are worth more than £7,500.

It’s not clear if Boris Johnson accepted money to help renovate the money. If he did and did not declare it, it could be controversial and potentially break rules on transparency.

It is a complicated issue and it has raised several questions that opposition MPs want the Prime Minister to answer. 


Why is Cummings back in the news?

Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s former top adviser, attacked the PM in his blog post on Friday. 

The blog post was the first post by Mr Cummings since before he left his post at Downing Street. The post addressed topics including leaks over texts between the Prime Minister and Dyson, and also leaks over lockdown, with Mr Cummings denying being the source of leaks from Downing Street.

At the end of the blog post, Mr Cummings said “it is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves.”

The blog post was seen as quite extraordinary, especially given that Cummings used to be seen as one of Johnson’s closest allies. The post at the weekend could be a sign of things to come, including potentially politically damaging situations for the PM, with suggestions that Cummings could reveal more about events during his time at Downing Street.

Mr Cummings is expected to appear before a committee of the House of Commons in May.


What about the reported comments on lockdown?

According to the Daily Mail, Boris Johnson said that he would rather see ‘bodies pile high in their thousands’ than order a third lockdown.

Sources are understood to have claimed to the Mail that the comments were made during a heated discussion in Downing Street in October. 

Mr Johnson has denied making the comments, while Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner has accused the PM of degrading the office and called on him to “apologise to all those who have lost someone during the pandemic”.

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