Scottish Tory Leader Says Johnson Should Quit if He Broke Rules
(Bloomberg) -- Scottish Conservative Party Leader Douglas Ross said U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson should quit if he’s found to have broken rules over the funding of refurbishments to his official residence.
Johnson is under investigation over who paid for the works to his apartment and when, and whether those payments were declared properly. He’s insisted there’s been no wrongdoing and that he met the costs himself. Asked whether the premier should quit if he’s found to have broken the Ministerial Code, Ross told BBC News, “Of course.”
“People should expect the highest standards of those in the highest office of the land,” Ross told the “Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday. “It’s right that we look to have serious questions answered.”
The comments from a Conservative Party ally add to pressure on the prime minister, who’s repeatedly refused to say whether he took an undeclared loan from a political donor to cover the costs of refitting his Downing Street apartment. Three inquiries have been called into the matter, with the opposition Labour Party pushing for a fourth into whether Johnson broke rules governing members of parliament.
“It’s appalling that we are in a situation where he won’t come clean about who lent him money or gave him money and what favors or promises may have been given in return,” Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy told Sky News’s “Sophy Ridge on Sunday” show. “This is a prime minister who frankly thinks that the rules don’t apply to him and his friends.”
Johnson has faced weeks of negative coverage from the U.K. media over “sleaze” allegations tied to the flat refurbishment, and access to ministers enjoyed by officials at the now-insolvent lender Greensill Capital, including former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Electoral Commission, which regulates political donations, announced a probe into the refurbishment last week, saying “there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offense or offenses may have occurred.” Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and Christopher Geidt, an independent advisor on ministers’ interests, are also investigating the matter.
Johnson, for his part, has called the story a “farrago of nonsense,” and during heated exchanges in the House of Commons on Wednesday he denied any rules were broken. He was asked three times by opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer to say who initially had covered the costs of the work, but declined to name anyone.
On Sunday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declined to be drawn on a Sunday Times story that a second invoice on the works to Johnson’s flat was settled by a Tory Party donor directly with the supplier.
“The prime minister has been crystal clear about it,” Raab told Sky. “He has covered the cost himself, he’s followed all the relevant codes of conduct at all relevant times, he took official advice all along the way.”
The whiff of scandal threatens to weigh on Conservative prospects in local elections taking place across much of the country on Thursday. An Opinium poll for the Observer on Sunday showed the Tory lead over Labour has narrowed to five percentage points from 11 over the past week.
Still, a second poll for the Sunday Telegraph projected the Tories would take power in an additional 13 councils while Labour would win six that it didn’t previously control. Raab, for his part, said voters haven’t brought up the issue of the prime minister’s flat.
“I’ve been out campaigning in the local elections,” he said. “Genuinely, no one has asked me about this.”
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