Mr Johnson faces yet another looming test from an investigation into reports that Downing Street assistants 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 to his party’s backbenchers and raised questions about whether he could face a challenge internal leadership.
Mr Geidt’s investigation grew out of reporting on Mr Johnson’s lavish makeover in his Downing Street quarters – a project overseen by his wife, Carrie Johnson, who hired upscale interior designer Lulu Lytle .
The bill for the work, which included designer wallpaper and furniture, was first paid by Mr Brownlow, who contributed £ 52,801 ($ 71,474). The prime minister then reimbursed the money, but the use of political donations to supplement his state budget for decoration raised questions as to whether he had broken ethics rules.
Downing Street argued that when Mr Johnson was discussing the renovation with Mr Brownlow he believed the donor was running a blind trust that had been set up to raise money to finance the project. But the WhatsApp messages, dating from November 2020, paint a somewhat different picture.
Mr Johnson told Mr Brownlow that “some parts of our apartment are still a bit of a tip” and asked for his help to allow Ms Lytle to start working. Mr. Brownlow replied that the trust to pay for the refurbishment had not yet been established. But he added: “It’s just me and I know where the £ will come from.”
“As soon as Lulu calls,” Mr. Brownlow promised, “we can continue.”
The disclosure of the text messages, which came as part of a separate UK Election Commission investigation, initially sparked speculation that aggrieved Mr Geidt could resign as Mr Johnson’s internal 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 the Prince Charles and Prince Andrew for his efforts to keep control of the royal family centralized in the Queen’s office.