“Levelling-up” the Johnson way

The full extent of the notorious Wallpapergate scandal seen by some as heralding the start of Boris Johnson’s downfall has been laid bare.

Will the next Conservative choice of Prime Minister live with the decor or will the long suffering taxpayer have to fork out for yet another refurbishment? (Some of the likely candidates are rich enough to pay for a refurbishment on this scale out of small change) – Owl

Estimate for PM’s renovation plan included £7k rug and £3,675 trolley

Simon Walters www.independent.co.uk 

The Independent has obtained a leaked copy of the estimate for the renovation of the prime minister’s Downing Street flat which totals more than £200,000.

Items suggested for Mr Johnson and wife Carrie by upmarket interior designer Lulu Lytle include a £3,675 drinks trolley said to be like the one owned in Paris by ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev and £2,260 worth of the “gold” wallpaper that Mr Johnson privately complained his wife had purchased.

Two sofas were priced at more than £15,000; £3,000 was considered for a “paint effect” for the flat hallway; and the cheapest item is a £500 kitchen table cloth.

The estimate for building works, which involved sanding the floorboards, painting and decorating, and installing new furnishings and fittings came to £30,000.

The leak from the Cabinet Office will reopen the long-running controversy over the Johnsons’ luxury refurbishment of their flat over at 11 Downing Street.

The £208,104 estimate was sent to the Cabinet Office in early 2020, which has a £30,000 annual budget to renovate the PM’s official Downing St flat, in the early stages of the work.

In fact, the rest of the cost was secretly funded by Lord Brownlow and the Conservative Party until the scandal was uncovered and Mr Johnson was told to pay it from his own funds.

The leaked bill shows that the Johnsons ordered a £3,675 “Nureyev Trolley” said to be “inspired by a French 1940s drinks trolley owned by ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev”.

The leaked estimate in full:

(The Independent)

(The Independent)

(The Independent)

The Johnsons were invited to spend £15,120 on two sofas (with another £2,880 for fabric to upholster them); £11,280 on eight dining chairs; £7,000 on a rug; £4,200 on a “double wingback chair”; £3,800 on an antique mirror for the hall and £1,000 for a kitchen TV table.

The leaked estimate from Ms Lytle’s Soane Britain company lists a drawing-room lamp for £6,000 with an extra £2,500 for the lamp shade.

Despite being known as Wallpapergate, in fact, the fabrics would have cost far more than the wall hangings.

On the wallpaper front, the single most expensive item was £2,260 for 10 rolls of “Espalier Square design” for the entrance hall.

According to the Soane Britain website Ms Lytle “imagines this gives the all-encompassing effect of fruit trees to form tunnels and pergolas in a 19th-century kitchen garden”.

Although described as “emerald and stone linen” in colour the “Espalier” wallpaper can appear to be gold in a certain light and is said to have inspired Mr Johnson’s frustrated remark that his wife was “spending thousands on gold wallpaper”.

The estimate for upholstery and curtains came to £21,280, including £3,200 for “32m of sorolla red scrolling fern” for dining room curtains.

It is not known which items the Johnsons ultimately chose for their home.

Mr Johnson was then forced to apologise in January for failing to disclose to his former Whitehall ethics adviser Lord Geidt messages between himself and Lord Brownlow, who contributed more than £50,000 towards the flat makeover.

In his report into the flat refurbishment in May 2021, Lord Geidt said Johnson told him he did not know Lord Brownlow paid the money before media reports earlier that year.

However, a separate inquiry by the Electoral Commission watchdog found out that Mr Johnson had in fact messaged Lord Brownlow over WhatsApp about the revamp in November 2020.

Lord Geidt, who resigned from his post last month, rebuked the prime minister for failing to disclose the texts, but did not change his initial verdict that Mr Johnson did not break the ministerial code.

In 2021 it emerged that the cost of the refurbishment was met by the Cabinet Office and recharged to the Conservative Party. After the scandal was revealed the money was returned to Tory HQ and Mr Johnson agreed to pick up the bill, though it is not clear where he obtained the necessary balance once the Cabinet Office paid its £30,000 share.

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