Boris Johnson’s sleaze catches up with him

It never ceases to amaze me when politicians who are by no means poor, get caught doing sleazy things in order to get luxuries that, in the grand scheme of things, seem quite petty. As someone once wisely said, what is astonishing is not that politicians can be bought, it is that they can be bought so cheaply.

In the UK, prime minister Boris Johnson seems to have got caught getting people to give him money to redecorate the apartment that he lives in in Downing Street, an episode now referred to as ‘Cash for Curtains’. (In the US, this would have been given the label ‘Curtaingate’, a tiresome practice that really should be retired.)

The revelations were unleashed in a blog post by his former aide Dominic Cummings, the person who worked closely with him in getting a yes vote on Brexit by, among other things, lying about the benefits it would provide for the National Health Service. Cummings and Johnson seem to have had a falling out after Cummings was fired after bad publicity following a lockdown-violating holiday that he took last year. Johnson’s actions are now bing investigated.

The Electoral Commission has launched an inquiry that has the potential to imperil Boris Johnson’s premiership as the “cash for curtains” row increasingly engulfed the prime minister.

With sweeping powers to call witnesses and refer matters to the police, the watchdog said its probe was necessary because it already believed there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect that payments for expensive renovations to Johnson’s Downing Street flat could constitute several offences.

The commission’s announcement came after five days of relentless scrutiny of Johnson and his behaviour in office, provoked by Cummings’ claims in a devastating blog post last Friday.

Cummings said Johnson told him last year of a plan to “have donors secretly pay for the renovation” to his No 11 residence, which he shares with his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, and their son, Wilfred.

He claimed that the plan as described to him was “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal, and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations” – all warnings he said he had made directly to the prime minister.

The big donor David Brownlow was awarded a peerage by former prime minister Theresa May after contributing to her campaign, suggesting a quid pro quo.

Jonathan Pie lets loose about this scandal (that he calls ‘Cash for Cushions’) and says that this episode shows how out of touch these top Conservative politicians are with the lives of ordinary people. He also helpfully decodes the language politicians use when trying to wriggle out of messes.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    For US and other readers : “cash for X” is a reference to a scandal in the 90s when mps took cash to ask questions in Parliament.

  2. Who Cares says

    For the tidbit that starts at 2:30, that is another scandal brewing, link to the latest BBC article on this. A VIP fast lane to fast track PPPE (and other COVID related) deals.
    The defense is “Anyone could use that fast track to get deals approved”. They are leaving out that you need to know it exists and that for some strange reason only a few people (or the companies they represent) with contacts in the UK government got deals approved when they used that fast track option. I believe (can’t find that specific article ATM) that only one deal of all the ones that got approved this way passed the smell test.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    … Johnson … his No 11 residence, which he shares with his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, and their son, Wilfred.

    The UK Prime Minister lives in sin, with his mistress, and their little bastard!?!?

    Even hardcore Trump™ Chumps© would never tolerate such indecency in the White House®!

  4. Matt G says

    Small pence. What about the Catholic bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Els in Germany who spent $41 million on renovations?

  5. Who Cares says

    @Matt G(#5):
    There are quite a few differences. What Bojo did was the equivalent of having the large donors behind a US president pay for redecorating (parts of) the White House. And that shows the sheer idiocy of Bojo, he could have gotten a (bigger) budget for/from the actual owner of the fully furnished rental apartment he can live in while being prime minister of the UK.

    The Bishop did not just rebuild the house for the bishop but also his office and the offices for his direct subordinates. Further he did not take bribes on the side. Then there is that he did not just want to renovate but go for a showcase building. The problem? He could only a get budget of about €5 million approved so he lied, the architect claimed that even barest of his designs fulfilling the design specs would come down to €30 million. And as usual instead of booting him out he got promoted for this (to the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization).

  6. Jörg says

    To me, a German Non-Catholic, TvE provided quite an amusing, prolonged show, at least for months. Well, after the current scandal will be forgotten, I guess Boris is always good for another one. 😀

  7. sonofrojblake says

    Gracious of you to allow “Drapegate”. They’re called “curtains” here, but good on ya for joining in.

  8. KG says

    Cummings was indeed sacked after “bad publicity following a lockdown-violating holiday that he took last year”, but several months after, and certainly not because of it. On the contrary, Johnson was willing to ride out weeks of bad publicity to keep him. Cummings seems to have fallen out with Carrie Symonds, Johnson’s fiancée, mother of the latest of his 6 or so children (the exact number is unclear, possibly even to Johnson), and a former member of Tory Party communications staff, when she blocked the promotion of Lee Cain, a Cummings ally, to the post of Chief of Staff. Cain left at the same time as Cummings. Cummings’ revelations were prompted by his anger at being blamed for a leak of lockdown plans toward the end of his tenure. Johnson must really be worried, becuase Cummings knows where the bodies are buried, and how they got there -- not a figure of speech in this case, he will know all the details of the incompetence and callousness that have led to perhaps 100,000 or more unnecessary Covid deaths in the UK.

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