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UK's Conservatives fined over donation for refurbishment of PM's home

·2 min read

By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Britain's governing Conservative Party was fined 17,800 pounds ($23,500) by the electoral watchdog on Thursday for failing to accurately report a donation which helped fund the refurbishment of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's official residence.

Johnson has faced intense scrutiny over how the financing of the refurbishment, estimated by some media to have run into hundreds of thousands of pounds on what the Sun newspaper has described as garish furniture and embossed wallpaper.

It is the latest in a series of scandals to have dogged the prime minister, under fire over reported parties at his Downing Street residence during last year's lockdown, the awarding of COVID contracts and the chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan.

In May, an official report into the issue was critical of Johnson but cleared him of a conflict of interest or of breaching the ministerial code.

But the Electoral Commission found Conservative Party donor, David Brownlow, donated 67,801 pounds but the party only reported 15,000 pounds of it.

The remaining 52,801 was to cover the cost of three invoices relating to the refurbishment of Downing Street, it said.

"Our investigation concluded that the full amount of the £67,801.72 was a donation and should have been reported to the Commission," it said in a statement.

"We also concluded that the reference to the payment made by the party for the refurbishment in the party’s financial records was not accurately recorded."

The opposition Labour Party said the Commission's findings raised new questions about Johnson's knowledge of the donation.

The official investigation published in May found Johnson was unaware that Brownlow had settled an invoice for some of the refurbishment cost, but the Electoral Commission said the prime minister had contacted the donor about the funding.

"The Prime Minister messaged Lord Brownlow via WhatsApp asking him to authorise further, at that stage unspecified, refurbishment works on the residence. Lord Brownlow agreed to do so," it said.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "The Prime Minister must now explain why he lied to the British public saying he didn’t know who was behind No11 flat refurb - all the while he was whatsapping the donor asking for more money."

"Boris Johnson has taken the British public for fools." ($1 = 0.7583 pounds) (Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Angus MacSwan)