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Ethics Adviser Rebukes Boris Johnson Over Downing Street Decorations

Mr. Johnson faces another looming test from an inquiry into reports that aides in Downing Street held Christmas parties in 2020, at a time when such gatherings were banned under coronavirus restrictions. The so-called “sleaze factor” has eroded Mr. Johnson’s poll numbers, frayed his ties with his party’s backbenchers and raised questions about whether he might face an internal leadership challenge.

Mr. Geidt’s investigation grew out of news reports about Mr. Johnson’s lavish makeover of his quarters in Downing Street — a project overseen by his wife, Carrie Johnson, who recruited a high-end interior decorator, Lulu Lytle.

The bill for the work, which included designer wallpaper and furniture, was initially picked up by Mr. Brownlow, who contributed £52,801 ($71,474). The prime minister later repaid the money, but the use of political donations to supplement his public budget for decoration raised questions about whether he had violated ethics rules.

Downing Street maintained that when Mr. Johnson was discussing the refurbishment with Mr. Brownlow, he believed the donor was administering a blind trust that had been set up to collect funds to finance the project. But the WhatsApp messages, dating from November 2020, paint a somewhat different picture.

Mr. Johnson told Mr. Brownlow that “parts of our flat are still a bit of a tip” and asked him for help in enabling Ms. Lytle to begin work. Mr. Brownlow replied that the trust to pay for the refurbishment had not yet been set up. But he added, “It’s only me and I know where the £ will come from.”

“As soon as Lulu calls,” Mr. Brownlow promised, “we can crack on.”

The disclosure of the text messages, which came in a separate investigation by Britain’s Electoral Commission, initially prompted speculation that an aggrieved Mr. Geidt might resign his post as Mr. Johnson’s in-house ethics adviser.

A military scholar who once served in Army intelligence, Mr. Geidt was private secretary to Queen Elizabeth II from 2007 to 2017. He was forced out of Buckingham Palace in a power struggle with Prince Charles and Prince Andrew over his effort to keep control of the royal family centralized in the queen’s office.

Circassia News

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