Boris Johnson's Downing Street flat refurbishment may have cost him more than he thought

WHEN Prime Minister David Lloyd George resigned in 1922, rumour has it that his fingers had to be practically prised off the door jamb of Chequers.

He was the first PM to enjoy the grace-and-favour stately home that comes with the job and clearly hadn’t quite got the memo that he was merely a “guest” just passing through.

Consequently, it’s a funny old place. Having been there a few times (ooh, get me) while both Labour and Tory PMs were in situ, it has the faded splendour of a stately home hotel that’s in need of an update.

Or let’s put it this way: The charitable trust that runs it clearly didn’t heed the old Ikea ad campaign urging us all to “chuck out the chintz”.

As should be the case with “other people’s money”, they feel no need to splurge donated cash on a fancy refurb when the existing furniture is perfectly adequate to sit/eat/sleep on.

It’s why — once the novelty of being able to use it wears off — any modern-thinking PM with a young family prefers to spend their weekends elsewhere. Downing Street, however, is a different story.

Whoever is PM lives in the “flat above the shop” which, if you have young kids, means it has to be a useable environment conducive to good sleeps, quick breakfasts, school runs and chaotic family life.

Tony Blair was the first PM to use the four-bed flat above No 11, instead of the more bijou No 10 abode, to accommodate his growing family — and others followed suit.

There’s an annual allowance of £30k of state money for necessary upkeep such as plumbing, electrics and structural repairs.

But above that amount, whoever’s in residence has to pay for any “non-essential” touches themselves.

It was “stuck in the 1960s” when the Blairs moved in and, over his long tenure, they spent £127,000 of the allowance on refurbishments, which meant the Browns didn’t feel the need to change anything when they moved in.

Next in were the Camerons, who spent £64,000 on updates, including a new bathroom and kitchen which, presumably, Theresa May was happy with because she didn’t make any changes.

And now we have “the Johnsons” — aka Boris and his fiancee Carrie Symonds — who, if the reports are true, baulked at the “John Lewis furniture nightmare” and opted for “stripped and burnished” floors, vintage-chic furniture and opulent wallpaper.

All at a reported cost of — gulp — £58k, which suggests it’s not the kind of “vintage” furniture one might extract from a skip.

The current controversy embroiling the couple arises from the issue of where this money came from.

A few days ago, the Cabinet Office announced that the flat’s “wider refurbishment costs” (the £58k) had been paid by the PM himself.

But before he stumped up the cash it is alleged Boris suggested the bill be paid out of undeclared funds donated towards a proposed “Downing Street trust” which, like Chequers, would mean the heritage property would be maintained “for the country” via charitable donations.

Hmmm. Firstly, the trust hasn’t yet been formed. And given the complexity involved in setting it up, that clearly isn’t going to happen any time soon.

Secondly, the PM’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings claims he told Boris last year the proposal to use donor money for the flat refurb was “unethical, foolish and possibly illegal”.

And thirdly, I’d pay to see Ms Symonds sit before a trust committee and argue why it should fork out several grand for, say, a scalloped chair when Aldi does one for £80.

Does this come under “government sleaze” — that oft-used term now being bandied about for the mystery of “decor-gate” as well as the ongoing lobbying scandal?

Well, it’s not quite up there with the Profumo Affair, the faked death of John Stonehouse, Lord Lambton being caught in bed with two prostitutes, Jeremy Thorpe’s trial for conspiracy to murder his secret male lover or, indeed, the aforementioned David Lloyd George being embroiled in a scandal involving the selling of knighthoods and peerages.

But irrespective of who paid for it, it’s still not a good look to be spending such an excessive amount on fancy decor when so many of the pandemic-struck electorate are worrying about where their next penny is coming from.

Particularly as “John Lewis furniture” is actually rather nice and wholly functional for modern living.

It smacks of a tinpot dictator lavishing cash on 24/7 fountains while, outside his gold-plated gates, the people he purports to represent are struggling to find fresh water.

So, even though he usually blusters his way through personal crises, could the reported excesses of his fiancee’s interior design tastes and the damning indictment of his former right-hand man (more of which is to come) prove to be the “scandal” that finally lands a punch on the jaw of Teflon Boris?

Watch this expensively refurbished space.

Andy's a car crash

PRINCE ANDREW is being driven around in a new £220k Bentley. As you do.

It is reported that he didn’t like the original colour of blue, so it was resprayed in British racing green, which on the open market would cost you several grand.

Still, only the best for a non-working royal embroiled in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, eh?

Apparently the Royal Family receive “favourable lease deals” on their vehicles, presumably in exchange for the kudos of a brand seeing its car being driven by, ahem, someone so high-profile.

But quite frankly, if I was boss of Bentley, I’d pay for Prince Andrew not to be seen in one.

Dipper not so lucky

THE UK’s highest rollercoaster, The Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, suffered a mechanical failure this week and riders had to walk down to safety.

Eek. Along with the hugely charismatic owner Geoffrey Thompson, now deceased, I was the first ever human to endure enjoy the ride just before it opened in May 1994.

The entrance hadn’t yet been built, so we had to ascend via ladders and nervously boarded the front carriage while those behind us were packed with sandbags.

As we slowly climbed to the 213ft peak, a front-mounted camera recorded every excruciating second of the subsequent terrifying drop. Consequently, there were numerous shots of my tonsils as I screamed.

Worse, the photographer kept saying he hadn’t yet got the “killer shot” which, quite frankly, he could have meant literally given the circumstances.

So I had to ride the bloody thing six more times.

Love isle doc will give you the jitters

CHECK out Toluwa Adepeju, a 25-year-old junior doctor who worked 70-hour weeks on the Covid front line and is rumoured to be taking part in the next series of Love Island.

Cripes. If you’re in your twenties and admitted to Toluwa’s hospital, for whatever reason, surely he’d actually give you palpitations?

Seeing red at sex ed

BARONESS BOOTHROYD – the first and only female Commons Speaker – is being investigated by Parliament’s ethics watchdog for failing to attend a compulsory sexual harassment course despite currently recovering from open-heart surgery.

I don’t know what’s more offensive: That a 91-year-old pioneer for women in politics is being bothered on her sickbed by the suggestion she even needs training in such matters; or that the company involved – Challenge Consultancy – has received more than £750,000 in contracts from Parliament for running two online courses about unconscious bias.

Romeo is an ad for jab

AN 85-year-old man who breached lockdown rules to have sex with a prostitute has blamed the Covid jab for making his sex drive shoot “through the roof”.

Unsurprisingly, he’s Italian.

Meanwhile, perhaps the Government should put him on a poster to encourage those currently resisting the vaccine to sign up with immediate effect.

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