United Kingdom

Leaked memo shows Tory chief knew £58,000 donation was for Boris Johnson's Downing Street flat 

Dramatic new evidence of the way the Tories used nearly £60,000 of party funds on a lavish makeover of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat emerged last night.

Leaked emails seen by the Daily Mail show Conservative co-chairman Ben Elliot was told in October that a £58,000 donation to party coffers was earmarked for the refit.

Lord Brownlow told the party’s head of fundraising, Mike Chattey, and Mr Elliot, nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall, that he was giving two donations to the party.

One gift of £15,000 was for general party funds, discloses the email, obtained from Downing Street sources.

Dramatic new evidence of the way the Tories used nearly £60,000 of party funds on a lavish makeover of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat emerged last night

This was duly declared to the Electoral Commission watchdog, in accordance with transparency rules.

Crucially, the email, also sent to Conservative chief executive Darren Mott, shows a second donation of £58,000 was to pay for new decor for Mr Johnson and fiancee Carrie Symonds’s flat at 11 Downing Street.

This has not yet been declared to the Electoral Commission.

The £58,000 was to cover an identical amount secretly paid months earlier by Tory HQ for the refurbishment, including expensive wallpaper – in an attempt to disguise it.

The email appears to prove that the Tories planned to claim the £58,000 was paid not by Lord Brownlow but by a ‘soon to be formed Downing St Trust’ that did not exist – and still doesn’t, officially.

The disclosure comes as the Electoral Commission continues to quiz Conservative chiefs over the flat refit row, which has been dubbed ‘Wallpaper-gate’. The email, sent by wealthy donor Lord Brownlow last October 14 was marked ‘Donation’ and reads: ‘Hi Mike ... further to our conversation I am making a donation to the Party.

Leaked emails seen by the Daily Mail show Conservative co-chairman Ben Elliot was told in October that a £58,000 donation to party coffers was earmarked for the refit

‘It includes the £15,000 you and I have agreed – plus £58,000 to cover the payments the Party has already made on behalf of the soon to be formed “Downing St Trust” – of which I have been made chairman, as you know.’ A second leaked email from Lord Brownlow in June 2020 shows the decision to set up the trust was taken by Mr Johnson as long as ten months ago.

That is when the Prime Minister started to panic over how he was going to pay the excess cost of the flat makeover by upmarket interior designer Lulu Lytle. It is said to have totalled a six-figure sum.

Lord Brownlow, 57, is a former Slough policeman who made a fortune from his Huntswood recruitment firm.

He has given the Tories £3million and is reportedly a member of the party’s elite ‘Leaders Group’ who donate at least £50,000 a year.

Lord Brownlow (pictured, behind the Queen on May 18, 2015) told the party’s head of fundraising, Mike Chattey, and Mr Elliot, nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall, that he was giving two donations to the party

The Queen made him a commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 2018 and he was ennobled a year later.

Despite earning £150,000 as Prime Minister, Mr Johnson sought financial help from the party nine months ago after complaining privately the cost of the refit of his official flat was ‘out of control’.

All MPs, including the PM, have to declare donations or other financial benefits in the Commons register of interests. Mr Johnson has not declared any donation from Lord Brownlow or Tory HQ.

This newspaper disclosed last month that Tory funds were used to help pay for decor for the flat and that the Prime Minister’s advisers planned to set up a ‘Downing St Trust’ with the publicly stated aim of ‘preserving Downing St for the nation’.

Privately, No 10 sources admit it was partly intended to hide the fact Conservative funds intended to fund campaigns were used to pay for the flat – as well as recoup the cash.

A second leaked email from Lord Brownlow in June 2020 shows the decision to set up the trust was taken by Mr Johnson as long as ten months ago. That is when the Prime Minister started to panic over how he was going to pay the excess cost of the flat makeover by upmarket interior designer Lulu Lytle. Pictured: An example of interior design by Lulu Lytle

In the second leaked email Lord Brownlow told colleagues on June 16 last year: ‘I have agreed with Ben [Elliot] and Darren [Mott] to stand down as vice chairman. I have accepted a role from the Prime Minister and feel this is an appropriate time to stand down. Best Wishes, David.’ The new role Lord Brownlow alluded to was to run the Downing Street Trust.

Eight months later no announcement has been made about its establishment.

A Conservative spokesman said: ‘All reportable donations to the Conservative Party are correctly declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them and comply fully with the law. Gifts and benefits received in a ministerial capacity are, and will continue to be, declared in Government transparency returns.’

The Tory party said last month that party funds ‘are not being used’ to pay for the flat. Asked if they had ever been used for this purpose, it refused to comment. Lord Brownlow did not respond to requests for comment.

Football news:

Guardiola on Man City before the Champions League final: I didn't talk about Chelsea for a second. We're thinking of Brighton
Cristiano Ronaldo: Someone can have one or two great seasons. The really strong ones are the ones who are good year after year
Real Madrid is the most expensive football brand in the world. Barcelona-second, Manchester United-third (Brand Finance)
Draxler has extended his contract with PSG until 2024
Tottenham value Kane at 150 million pounds and do not want to let him go to the Premier League club
Real Madrid are unlikely to extend their contract with Ramos if Varane stays at the club
The Government of the Russian Federation has allocated more than 1 billion rubles for the preparation and holding of International competitions