Downing Street flat refurbishment: who is Lord Geidt - and what decision has he made about Boris Johnson?

The Electoral Commission fined the Conservative party £17,800 over its failure to properly declare donations which were put toward the Downing Street flat refurb

Boris Johnson is expected to be cleared of breaching the ministerial code of conduct following another investigation into his conduct regarding the funding of renovation works to the flat above Number 11 Downing Street.

Lord Geidt, the prime minister’s adviser on the ministerial code, reopened an earlier investigation into the funding of the flats after findings by the Electoral Commission seemed to contradict some of his previous conclusions.

Downing Street flat refurbishment

It was reported earlier this year that Boris Johnson had commissioned a costly renovation of the flat above Number 11 Downing Street.

At the time, Johnson denied that the cost of the renovation had been met by a Conservative donor, Lord Brownlow.

An investigation by Lord Geidt at the time cleared Johnson of any wrongdoing, noting that he had not been aware until reports appeared in the media in February 2021, of the plans to have Brownlow pay into a charitable trust set up for the purposes of the refurbishment.

However, a later investigation by the Electoral Commission found that Brownlow gave the Conservative party £112,000, which the party then failed to lawfully declare as a political donation.

The Electoral Commission fined the Conservatives £17,800 last month following its investigation, which also revealed that Johnson had messaged Lord Brownlow last November asking for money to refurbish the Number 11 flat.

This revelation contradicted Lord Geidt’s earlier findings and prompted the PM’s ethics adviser to look into the matter once again.

It is understood that Geidt has considered resigning over the matter, although reports suggest that Geidt will clear Johnson of wrongdoing.

Who is Lord Geidt?

Lord Geidt is the prime minister’s adviser on ministers’ interests, the rules which govern the behaviour of government ministers, including the prime minister.

Lord Geidt, who previously served as private secretary to the Queen for 10 years, was appointed to advise Johnson in April 2021, in direct response to reports about the Downing Street flat refurbishment.

The prime minister’s previous ethics adviser, Alex Allan, resigned in late 2020 after Johnson rejected his finding that Priti Patel had breached the ministerial code by bullying civil servants.

What has Labour said?

Responding to reports in the FT, Labour has criticised Boris Johnson and the Conservative party and called for Lord Geidt to publish any correspondence with the prime minister.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “After the Electoral Commission ruled that the Conservative Party broke the law on declaring donations, the Prime Minister has made a mockery of the standards the public has a right to expect.

“While the British public is facing a cost of living crisis, Boris Johnson is busy writing to his own adviser about why he did not give him all of the information he needed for his investigation.

“Lord Geidt should publish all his correspondence with the Prime Minister as a first step towards providing full transparency into how Boris Johnson is explaining away his WhatsApp messages with Tory donors.

“It is embarrassing that when the country needs real leadership, Boris Johnson is busy trying to clear up his own personal mess.”