Like a game of pinball, it seems the Prime Minister has bounced from scandal to scandal in the last few weeks. It is not just hard for him to keep up with it but also everyone else. No fear, here is a somewhat definitive list of the scandals Mr Johnson has been embroiled in during the past month.
Johnson’s month of woes started with scandal from former PM David Cameron. David Cameron had been on the board of Greensill, an investment firm that was about to collapse. In a series of texts and phone calls, Cameron lobbied the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to give the company a series of government-backed loans from the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), even though Greensill did not meet the requirements for such loans.
The Prime Minister’s month did not improve
Whilst not directly implicated in this scandal, it was not a good look for the PM. It suggested either Johnson had so little control of his Minsters of State that such behaviour went unnoticed or that Johnson had chosen to turn a blind eye to such behaviour. There is also a problem that the Cameron/Greensill affair is symptomatic of an underlying culture of “chumocracy” in the Government.
The Prime Minister’s month did not improve. The next scandal to break related to the refurbishment of the PMs flat in Downing Street. Whilst all Prime Ministers are given £30,000 for refurbishments for Downing Street a year, it is speculated that Johnson’s refurbishments cost as much as £200,000.
It is unclear where this extra money came from. Some Prime Ministers, such as David Cameron, used his own money to fund some of the refurbishments. However, leaked emails suggest Tory peer Lord Brownlow donated £58,000 towards the project. Since the scandal had gained such widespread public attention, it is now believed that Mr Johnson has belatedly used his own funds. A formal investigation was announced by the Electoral Commission this week and they will no doubt look at closely.
Ultimately, paying for his own redecoration did not seem to hoover up the controversy surrounding the Prime Minister this week as a series of texts were leaked between him and Brexit-supporting entrepreneur, James Dyson. In them, Johnson said in March last year he would “fix” the issue of workers from overseas paying taxes in the UK whilst they built ventilators. Both Johnson and Dyson have hit back at the claims, Dyson himself claiming he has only ever donated £800 to political causes and has never attended a Conservative Party Social Event.
After all these scandals coming out, the Prime Minister’s former advisor, Dominic Cummings, came forward this week after several months of silence to rebut claims made by Downing street that he was the source of leaks to the press. In the blog post, Cummings made several claims.
The first being that: “The Cabinet Secretary told the PM that the leak was neither me nor the then Director of Communications and that ‘all the evidence definitely leads to Henry Newman and others in that office”. Moreover, the PM was unwilling to fire Newman as he was a friend of his partner Carrie Symonds. The PM then tried to block the inquiry into the ‘lockdown leaker’, something Cummings himself called “mad and unethical”.
Cummings then turns his attention in the blog to the flat renovations and the suggestion he had leaked the issue to the press. In the post, Cummings said that Johnson stopped speaking to him about the flat renovations after Cummings told him he “thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended”.
Cummings was once his closest advisor and was protected by the PM after breaking Covid restrictions back in May
Cummings ends his blog post calling for a Parliamentary inquiry, with which he offers to cooperate fully as he feels the way the PM and Downing Street are currently handling the situation is not good enough. Many in the media are considering this a serious blow to Johnson; Cummings was once his closest advisor and was protected by the PM after breaking Covid restrictions back in May.
Yet more trouble was caused this week with the leak that, in response to the suggestion of a third lockdown in December, Johnson had said: “let the bodies pile up”. Johnson has denied the comment however, as Tom Peck argued in the Independent, whether or not he said the comment is besides the point. Many still feel the PM did not do enough.
The final scandal to have broken is that Johnson’s phone number has been available online for 15 years and it is still the number he uses. Many feel this is a reflection of the PM’s careless attitude towards the importance of his role. Whilst this does not have the same ‘sleaze’ of other scandals, it is still a serious security risk.
Will he prove to be the great survivor or will his past eventually catch up with him?
The news coverage surrounding Johnson is sure to continue and many are left wondering how long he can hold onto power. With local elections approaching, many are wondering how the last month’s news will play out at the ballot box.
It is worth bearing in mind that controversy has followed Johnson throughout his career (watermelon smiles, letterbox Muslims, Jennifer Arcuri and a string of other infidelities) and, despite everything, the Tories go into those elections ahead in the polls. Will he prove to be the great survivor or will his past eventually catch up with him?
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