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.