Column: Donations and decorations - a tricky corner for Boris Johnson
I’m about to put my flat up for sale and it needs a bit of painting and decorating before going on the market.
Anyone free to chip in with, say, £1000?
Hmm, a bit rich, how about 50 quid?
Okay, I’ll accept tins of paint and maybe any old leftover rolls of woodchip from the back of your garage.
In return, I will, of course, strenuously deny you ever contributed.
Well, it seems to work for Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds who have just refurbished their Downing Street gaffe.
The couple live in one of the most historic addresses in the UK. It comes complete with armed coppers outside, and enough folk hovering in the corridors that you never need to use your own hands to open any door.
The movie Love Actually really isn’t far from the reality of life inside. I’ve been in 11 Downing Street - it’s more than alright. Decent sized rooms, and in immaculate nick despite a succession of previous occupants.
You won’t find any chipped skirting boards or scuff marks on the walls.
But, everyone likes to add their own style, so Johnson and Symonds presumably watched a few episodes of Changing Rooms and then cracked on with a refurbishment that has now embroiled the PM in yet another chaotic mess.
He denies he accepted donations to foot the bill - just as he denies everything else which goes wrong on his watch. Just when we need a grown-up in Downing Street, we get a fidgeting, shabbily dressed, bumbling buffoon.
Johnson gets a £30,000 annual grant to spend on the flat.
I’m not the best person at adding up sums, but I’m pretty sure that’s £30,000 more than any of is get to spend on our properties.
And, last time I looked, 30 grand goes a long way at Ikea.
Speculation centres on a possible £200,000 makeover. That’s more than my flat is worth.
Number 11 Downing Street is a four-bedroomed flat - not a mansion.
It’s not exactly falling down or requiring major structural repairs, so we can only assume the £200,000 was on paper, paint and furnishings.
I get that his tastes will be different to those of Theresa May, but even if the final bill was half the speculated amount, it would still show a Prime Minister out of touch with the rest of the country - a man who brings new, and skewed meaning, to ‘charity begins at home.’
If the couple cannot re-paper, add some paint and chuck in some soft furnishings for under £30,000 then they deserve all that is coming to them.
Johnson is not a poor man. He earns huge sums from rattling off a few columns for his pals in the media, and has done for years.
A smart PM would have announced they were not taking the £30,000 grant, and would personally foot the bill for the most modest of refurbs.
Johnson may know lots of grand Latin phrases, but smart, he isn’t.
This row may not bring him down, but the crises are beginning to stack like planes over Heathrow.
That bumbling, blustering routine he deploys to get out of very single tight corner he reverses himself into, may not be enough to protect him.