Just weeks after the Electoral Commision launched an investigation into Boris Johnson and the Downing Street flat refurbishment, he is planning to strip the body of its power to prosecute breaches of law.
In May, the Prime Minister found himself at the heart of controversy as details of his expensive flat refurbishment were found to be murky.
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The work carried out on the flat cost more than the PM’s £30,000 official yearly allowance. As such, Johnson is expected to pay the rest of the funds himself. However, Downing Street spokespeople refused to say who exactly had paid the cost of the refurbishment.
According to a report, one bill for Johnson was paid by the Cabinet Office first, which was then reimbursed by the Conservative Party in June 2020. Later that year, a Conservative member of the House of Lords and Party donor, David Brownlow, paid another invoice of Johnson’s.
As the Electoral Commission announced an official investigation into who paid for the refurb, ministers have announced that a new Elections Bill will remove the Commission’s ability to prosecute criminal offences within electoral law, stating that it “wastes public money”.
It is an obligation for officials in public life uphold certain standards of impartiality. If someone paid for the Prime Minister’s refurbishment of his flat, this creates a potential conflict of interest that must be officially declared.
The Electoral Commission is therefore investigating whether the right processes were followed when Mr Johnson was having the work done for his flat, costing a reported £200,000.
In response to the crackdown on their ability to prosecute, the Electoral Commission said that the move would “place a fetter on the commission which would limit its activity”.
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Since the Electoral Commission fined the Vote Leave campaign for exceeding specific spending limits for their Brexit campaign, the watchdog has been under threat.
Senior Conservatives were part of Vote Leave, with Boris Johnson and Cabinet minister Michael Gove fronting the campaign.