Factbox-Under pressure, UK PM Johnson fights leaks against him

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street in London
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure over a series of accusations about how he responded to Britain's coronavirus pandemic, the refurbishment of his flat and an inquiry into who was leaking private information from his office.

His office at Number 10 Downing Street and ministers in his cabinet team have denied the accusations, but opposition lawmakers are hoping to stoke the fire with the Labour Party making accusations of sleaze.

Following are some of the leaks and the official responses:

DYSON

-- The BBC reported last week that Johnson told businessman James Dyson he would fix a tax issue for some of Dyson's staff if they came to Britain to make ventilators at the start of the pandemic.

The use of text messages rather than more formal means of communication raised accusations by Labour and other opposition parties that Johnson's government employed a so-called "chumocracy", where friends of the prime minister and his Conservative Party got preferential treatment.

Johnson said on April 21 he would make no apology for giving the assurances to secure ventilators to "save lives".

The government launched an inquiry into who leaked the text messages.

-- Last week, three British newspapers quoted unidentified sources in Johnson's office saying the prime minister's former senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, had leaked private conversations, including with Dyson.

In a statement, Cummings said he was not "directly or indirectly" the source of the leak of details of the conversation with Dyson to the BBC. "I am also happy to publish or give to the Cabinet Secretary the PM/Dyson messages that I do have, which concerned ventilators, bureaucracy and covid policy - not tax issues," Cummings said.

The Labour Party have called on the government to publish all communications between ministers and their business contacts or links who were awarded contracts over the pandemic under emergency procurement measures put in place in March 2020.

COVID-19 RESPONSE

-- The government was forced to bring forward an announcement of a second COVID-19 lockdown last year when details of its plans were published in several British newspapers.

The government is investigating who was behind this leak, and on Monday a spokesman for Johnson said it was ongoing.

Three newspapers last week also suggested that Downing Street was pointing the finger at Cummings.

Cummings, in the same statement, said Britain's top civil servant, or public official, had told Johnson that Cummings was not behind the leak. Cummings also said that Johnson suggested stopping the leak inquiry if it implicated a friend of his fiancée.

"I told him that this was 'mad' and totally unethical," Cummings said, adding that he encouraged the top civil servant to continue with the leak inquiry.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said on Friday: "The PM has never interfered in a government leak inquiry."

BODIES

On Monday, Johnson denied a report in the Daily Mail that Johnson said he would rather bodies piled "high in their thousands" than order a third social and economic lockdown to stem coronavirus infections.

Asked if he made the remark, Johnson said: "No, but again, I think the important thing, I think, that people want us to get on and do as a government is to make sure that the lockdowns work, and, and they have."

Labour leader Keir Starmer has called for Johnson to make a public statement on the report. "I was astonished to see those words," Starmer said. "It's for the prime minister now to make a public statement about that. If he did say those things, he's got to explain it."

THE FLAT

Several newspapers have reported that Johnson sought funds from donors to the Conservative Party to help renovate his residence in No. 11 Downing Street.

A government spokeswoman said on Friday: "At all times, the government and ministers have acted in accordance with the appropriate codes of conduct and electoral law. Cabinet Office officials have been engaged and informed throughout and official advice has been followed.

"All reportable donations are transparently declared and published – either by the Electoral Commission or the House of Commons registrar, in line with the requirements set out in electoral law.

"Gifts and benefits received in a ministerial capacity are, and will continue to be, declared in transparency returns.”

Separately, defence minister Ben Wallace and trade minister Liz Truss have both said the prime minister had now paid for the flat renovations with his own money.

Cummings said his knowledge of the plans for the flat was limited as Johnson stopped speaking to him about it in 2020, but he added: "As I told him I thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended."

Labour has written to Johnson to call for a full investigation and demanding "he makes it clear who originally paid for the refurb, why, when and how - as well as asking the prime minister to come clean about the allegations levelled at him by his former Chief Adviser Dominic Cummings that Johnson behaved unethically and possibly illegally in his management of the Downing Street flat refurb".

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting