THE PG Wodehouse inspired non-performance artist with the stage name Boris Johnson continues to be mired in the stench of corruption. Despite telling his ethics adviser Lord Geidt that he had no idea how the lavish refurbishment of his Downing Street flat was being funded, it turns out that Johnson had exchanged a series of text messages with the Conservative Party donor who had stumped up the cash, asking for more money.

Possibly one of the most surprising aspects of this sordid and sleazy affair is the discovery that Boris Johnson has an ethics adviser. That's like learning that an iguana has an adviser in quantum physics and human empathy. Even if it did have the intellectual capacity to grasp what it was being told, it still wouldn't be interested. You'd have as much success in expecting Boris Johnson to care about the ethical standards expected of a Prime Minister as you would in getting Pablo Escobar to care about cocaine addiction.

In his whitewash report which examined the £112,000 refurbishment of the Downing Street flat where Johnson lives with Carrie Symonds and their children, Giedt said he had been assured that "at no point in the eight months until late February 2021, as media reports were emerging, was the Prime Minister made aware of either the fact or the method of the costs of refurbishing the apartment having been paid".

In fact, the WhatsApp messages sent from Johnson to David Brownlow, a Tory peer and former vice-chair of the party, reveal that in November 2020 the Prime Minister was well aware of where the cash was coming from. Johnson even asked Brownlow for more money, pleading that the flat was "still a bit of a tip". He went on to assure Brownlow that he was "on the great exhibition plan", referring to a pet project of Brownlow's to mount a modern version of the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Not only do the messages show that Johnson had been lying in his previous statements in which he denied knowledge of the source of the money, they give the strong impression of a corrupt prime minister soliciting funds for the improvement of his own home in return for giving government consideration to the personal project of a Conservative peer and party donor.

The National: Lord GeidtLord Geidt

On Thursday, Johnson was forced to issue a “humble and sincere apology” to Geidt after he failed to inform him of the exchange with Brownlow when he carried out an investigation into the funding of work last year. Johnson claimed he did not recall the messages because they were on an old mobile phone, which he no longer had access to, after its phone number had been published on the website Popbitch. That's not an explanation that holds water however, as it is not that difficult to retrieve WhatsApp messages when you change your mobile phone and get a new number. Chalk it up as another Johnson lie. 

Geidt has accepted Johnson's apology, and has stopped short of saying that had he known of the messages, he would have found in his report that the rules had been broken. In an interview with Times Radio, small business minister Paul Scully insisted that there was "nothing untoward" in Johnson's text exchanges with Brownlow.

As Green MP Caroline Lucas pointed out: “[It's] convenient that a man [Geidt] appointed by Boris Johnson clears Boris Johnson of lying by accepting the ridiculous excuse that the PM ‘did not recall’ asking to borrow a huge sum from a Tory peer for a flat re-decoration."

Yet again we see that the institutions of the British state are hopelessly inadequate when it comes to holding the powerful to account. The Westminster system is broken beyond repair, and having got away with this scam, the Tories know that they can behave the same way in the future, and nothing and no one will ever hold them to account.

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