Man dies rescuing drowning woman

Not all hero’s wear capes …. This young man lost his life yesterday attempting to save a woman from drowning in the Thames following a fall off of London Bridge. This Lad should be highlighted as the inspiration for ALL young lads in this country , WHY is this news NOT on every news channel and social media platform ? They’re all collectively quick enough to spread negativity about youngsters. Sleep tight young man , I salute you (and the parents who raised you) 💔

Commonwealth war graves: PM deeply troubled over racism

Boris Johnson said he is “deeply troubled” by failures to properly commemorate black and Asian troops who died fighting for the British Empire during World War One.

Some troops were commemorated collectively or their names were recorded in registers, while their white counterparts had headstones.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace apologised in the Commons after a report blamed “pervasive racism”.

Mr Wallace pledged to “take action”.

The prime minister offered an “unreserved apology” over the findings of the review by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

“Our shared duty is to honour and remember all those, wherever they lived and whatever their background, who laid down their lives for our freedoms at the moment of greatest peril,” he said.

Mr Wallace expressed “deep regret” in the House of Commons, as he told MPs there was “no doubt” prejudice had played a part in what happened after WWI.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which is tasked with commemorating those who died in the two world wars, has also apologised over its findings.

Labour MP David Lammy, who was critical to bringing the matter to light, called it a “watershed moment”.

Mr Wallace said: “On behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the government both of the time and today, I want to apologise for the failures to live up to their founding principles all those years ago and express deep regret that it has taken so long to rectify the situation.

“Whilst we can’t change the past, we can make amends and take action,” he said.

He said there were cases where the commission “deliberately overlooked evidence” that would have allowed it to find the names of the dead.

And he said there were examples of officials employing an “overarching imperial ideology connected to racial and religious differences” in order to “divide the dead and treat them unequally in ways that were impossible in Europe”.

Outlining the next steps, Mr Wallace said the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will:

Mr Wallace also announced a public consultation over plans to waive the visa fee for service personnel from the Commonwealth and Nepal who choose to settle in the UK in order to honour their contribution.

An inquiry by the commission was set up following a 2019 Channel 4 documentary, called Unremembered, which was presented by Mr Lammy.

The report found that at least 116,000 casualties from WW1, most of whom were of African, Indian or Egyptian origin, “were not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all”.

But that figure could be as high as 350,000, it said.

It also cited racist comments such as the governor of a British colony saying in 1923 that: “The average native… would not understand or appreciate a headstone.”

Shadow justice secretary Mr Lammy told the BBC that while making the documentary in Kenya and Tanzania, he discovered mass graves in which Africans had been “dumped with no commemoration whatsoever”.

He said it was a travesty that men who served the British Empire were not commemorated properly, but welcomed the report.

“I’m just really, really pleased that the dignity that these men deserved – who were dragged from their villages and commandeered to work for the British Empire – that dignity that they deserve in death can be granted to them,” he said.

Mr Lammy added that work must be done to find their names in archives where that is possible, and to establish how local communities would like them to be commemorated.

He also said Commonwealth soldiers should not be “whitewashed” out of history books, while Mr Wallace said it was a “deep regret” that his own WW1 education had included “very little about the contribution from the Commonwealth countries and the wider at the time British Empire”.

Historian Prof David Olusoga, whose TV company produced Unremembered, told BBC Breakfast that apologies were not enough and resources would need to be committed if the commission was serious about restorative justice.

“If the Commonwealth War Graves Commission had set up a committee and discovered that 100,000 white British soldiers lay in mass graves – unmarked, uncommemorated – and the documentation proved that that had been deliberate, what would they do?” he said.

Six million soldiers from the British Empire served in WW1.

Between 45,000 and 54,000 Asian and African personnel who died in the conflict were “commemorated unequally”, the commission said.

The report concluded that the failure to properly commemorate the individuals was influenced by a scarcity of information, errors inherited from other organisations and the opinions of colonial administrators.

“Underpinning all these decisions, however, were the entrenched prejudices, preconceptions and pervasive racism of contemporary imperial attitudes,” it added.

The report picked out an example from 1923 when the governor of the Gold Coast colony, now Ghana, argued for collective memorials rather than individual ones.

At a meeting in London, it was said that the governor, F G Guggisberg, said: “The average native of the Gold Coast would not understand or appreciate a headstone.”

In response, commission employee Arthur Browne said: “In perhaps two or three hundred years’ time, when the native population had reached a higher stage of civilisation, they might then be glad to see that headstones had been erected on the native graves and that the native soldiers had received precisely the same treatment as their white comrades.”

The report said Mr Browne’s response showed “what he may have considered foresight, but one that was explicitly framed by contemporary racial prejudice”.

The commission, which was founded in 1917 as the Imperial War Graves Commission, said the events of a century ago were wrong then and were wrong now.

Its director general, Claire Horton, said: “We recognise the wrongs of the past and are deeply sorry and will be acting immediately to correct them.”

As part of the commission’s work to search for unnamed war dead and those who are potentially not commemorated, it will also look at those who died in World War Two, although it is not thought that inequalities seen in WW1 were as widespread then.

Ms Horton said the report was “sober” reading but gave the commission the ability – “now that we know the numbers and the areas to look” – to start the searches properly to “right the wrongs of the past”.

The war graves commission was founded with a remit to remember every individual who had died in World War One, regardless of rank, class, religion or race.

The idea of equal treatment was controversial, but it became a cornerstone of remembrance.

Outside Europe, however, the commission enacted a policy of extreme discrimination, categorising the fallen as “white”, “Indians” or what it called “natives”.

In southern Kenya, white soldiers lie beneath named memorials in a well-tended cemetery. Next door in a scruffy field is where their African comrades are buried – no names, just a general memorial.

The consequence of the commission’s failings is not only to do a great injustice to the black and Asian soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought alongside their white European comrades in two world wars, it is to misrepresent our history.

Greta Thunberg becomes bunny hugger on Twitter

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has updated her Twitter biography to describe herself as a “bunny hugger”.

The change comes after remarks made by the prime minister, Boris Johnson, to US President Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit on 22 April.

In his speech, Boris Johnson described “the politically correct green act of bunny hugging”.

The remarks made were met with bemusement from some on social media.

It is not the first time the Swedish climate activist – who’s also changed her Instagram profile – has used her Twitter bio to make a joke.

She changed her Twitter bio to feature the words “currently chilling” after former US President Donald Trump told her to “chill” in 2019.

In the same year, she also changed her description on the site to “pirralha” (the Portuguese word for brat) after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro used the word to describe her.

She also responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin calling her “a kind but poorly informed teenager” by putting the quote into her social media biography.

In his speech, delivered virtually, Mr Johnson argued that tackling climate change is about “growth and jobs” not “expensive bunny hugging”.

He quickly backtracked, saying there was “nothing wrong with bunny hugging but you know what I’m driving at”.

His speech attracted thousands of comments on social media, with Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden telling her followers on Twitter that the prime minister’s speech was best watched “curled up behind the sofa”.

Others on the site expressed concern that the remarks made by Mr Johnson may not have translated well for those watching without English as a first language.

The virtual climate summit was organised by US President Joe Biden.

He described the coming years as a “decisive decade” for action on the climate crisis.

Later this year, the UK is due to host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Uyghurs: MPs state genocide is taking place in China

The House of Commons has declared for the first time that genocide is taking place against Uyghurs and others in north-west China.

More than a million people are estimated to have been detained at camps in the region of Xinjiang.

The motion approved by MPs does not compel the UK to take action, but is a sign of growing discontent towards the Chinese government in Parliament.

In response, China said the UK should “immediately right its wrong moves”.

Tory Sir Iain Duncan Smith heralded the vote as “a historic moment”, bringing the UK Parliament in line with Holland, Canada and the United States.

Sir Iain was one of five UK parliamentarians sanctioned by China for spreading what it calls “lies and disinformation”.

Speaking in the debate, Nus Ghani – another MP to be targeted by China – said genocide meant intent to “destroy in whole or in part” a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

“All five criteria of genocide are evidenced as taking place in Xinjiang,” she said.

Ms Ghani said detainees were subject to “brutal torture methods, including beatings with metal prods, electric shocks and whips”.

She also said women in the Uyghur region were being fitted with birth control devices, adding: “The Handmaid’s Tale is a fairy tale compared to the reproductive rights of Uighur women.”

“This abuse is evidenced by the Chinese government’s own data – 2014, over 200,000 birth control devices were inserted in women in Xinjiang. By 2018, this had increased by 60%,” she said.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy to the UK said: “The unwarranted accusation by a handful of British MPs that there is ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is the most preposterous lie of the century, an outrageous insult and affront to the Chinese people, and a gross breach of international law and the basic norms governing international relations.

“China strongly opposes the UK’s blatant interference in China’s internal affairs.”

Labour’s shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Kinnock said the party supported the motion arguing that “genocide can never be met with indifference or inaction”.

The government opposed the motion arguing that deeming an event to be a genocide was a matter for “competent national and international courts after consideration of all the available evidence”.

Despite government opposition, the motion passed because ministers did not vote against it.

Foreign Office Minister Nigel Adams insisted the UK was “ramping up pressure” on Beijing through the United Nations.

Earlier this year, Canada, the European Union, the UK and the US imposed sanctions on Chinese officials in protest at rights abuses in the country.

China has denied allegations of abuse and argued that the camps are a tool to fight terrorism.

Joe Biden to visit UK in June for first overseas trip as president

US President Joe Biden will visit the UK in June for his first overseas trip since his election victory last year.

The president will travel to Cornwall for the G7 summit, which takes place between 11 and 13 June.

From there, he will travel to Brussels, in Belgium, to participate in the Nato Summit on 14 June.

President Biden’s trip will focus on “restoring our alliances” and “revitalising the Transatlantic relationship”, the White House said.

During his time in the UK, Mr Biden is due to hold bilateral meetings with fellow G7 leaders, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“This trip will highlight his commitment to restoring our alliances, revitalising the transatlantic relationship, and working in close cooperation with our allies and multilateral partners to address global challenges and better secure America’s interests,” the president’s press secretary said.

The G7 summit is an opportunity to “reinforce our commitment to multilateralism, work to advance key US policy priorities on public health, economic recovery, and climate change, and demonstrate solidarity and shared values among major democracies,” they added.

The UK, US, Germany, France, Canada, Italy and Japan make up the G7, while leaders from Australia, India, South Korea and the EU will also attend the summit as guests.

It will be held in Carbis Bay, near St Ives.

The US president’s trip to the UK will be his first to any nation since defeating Donald Trump in November’s election.

Following his victory, Mr Biden also chose to call the UK prime minister before any other European leader.

During that call, the two leaders talked about “the benefits of a potential free trade deal” between the UK and the US, with Mr Johnson reiterating his intention “to resolve existing trade issues as soon as possible”, Downing Street said at the time.

Both Mr Johnson and Mr Biden have been taking part in a climate action summit – hosted by the US – this week.

The US has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by the year 2030.

This new target, which was unveiled at a virtual summit of 40 global leaders, essentially doubles their previous promise.

Earlier in the week, it was revealed that the UK hopes to cut its own carbon emissions by 78% by 2035.

European Super League: Why Johnson and Starmer dived into the row

Boris Johnson did not waste a moment wading into the row over the European Super League – vowing to do everything in his power to stop it.

Within hours of the announcement from the clubs involved, he had tweeted his condemnation.

And all this from a prime minister who isn’t even a football fan himself.

So why did he want to get stuck in?

He was still at it during Prime Minister’s Questions, even dipping into the book of football cliches to declare the decision to ditch the ESL the “right result”.

As the mayor of London during the 2012 London Olympics, Mr Johnson discovered first hand the power of sport to unite people and lift the national mood, as well as boosting his own popularity.

But there are other, deeper factors at play.

Firstly, let’s think about some of the big concepts that have driven British politics in recent years: Belonging, identity and pride.

And yes, that famous slogan of five years ago from the Vote Leave campaign – a desire to “take back control.”

The European Super League felt like a laser guided strike on these amorphous but powerful feelings.

“It is pretty much the first thing I thought,” the pollster Deborah Mattinson told me.

Mattinson wrote a book, Beyond The Red Wall, about those swathes of seats in the Midlands and north of England that voted Conservative for the first time at the last general election.

“It is about ‘my place, my community’. It is a sense of what is yours, versus globalism.”

Look at the ESL through this lens and we see a group of powerful global brands cooking up what critics see as a self-serving, money-spinning scheme, without even asking the people upon which their empires were built – the supporters – what they make of it.

But why shouldn’t these companies seek to maximise their assets?

What about the Conservative instinct for the free market?

Downing Street argued that this was different.

“The clubs aren’t just global brands, they originate from local communities,” No 10 said. “This is not just a pure business decision. It is important for the fans and for their local communities.”

Sir Keir Starmer was just as outspoken as the prime minister in his condemnation of the ESL, and just as quick to welcome its demise.

“Even as an Arsenal season ticket holder,” said the Labour leader, with a reference to one of the six English clubs who wanted to be part of the ESL, he felt the move would have “destroyed football”.

Starmer and Johnson both appear to understand how politics is changing in the aftermath of Brexit.

“The big message in politics of the last 10 years – with Brexit and the realignment of party support – is people want power and influence sent down towards them, not up and away from them.

“Football, which has local roots, is drifting away from people, when the currents in politics are going in the opposite direction,” says Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics at the University of Kent.

And then there is geography to consider.

“There is a new political geography in Britain. In the vast majority of the constituencies the Conservatives won from Labour at the last election, there are loads of people who feel passionately about this,” says Matthew Goodwin.

In other words, in England’s political battleground, towns, this issue has disproportionate resonance.

As Paul Waugh, of HuffPost, has reflected many of these towns, such as Burnley, Blackpool, Lincoln and Crewe, are Leave-voting and home to smaller clubs whose supporter base is much more geographically concentrated.

These are places where identity, belonging and taking back control matters – and whose football teams aspire to climb the league pyramid, their success the only determinant of how high they might get.

They are also places enthused by Brexit and, arguably, drawn to a promise to “level up”, to use the government’s jargon for spreading wealth and power to previously neglected areas.

Matthew Goodwin, who wrote a well-regarded book on the rise of UKIP, says: “This is a crucial cultural point as well. The British sense of fair play. An aspiration to rise up the social and economic ladder. This league violates that. It says we are just cementing the elite.”

And, as Prospect magazine has previously pondered, there is another, more nuanced, geographical point worth reflecting on too.

The footballing elite, the Premier League, is overwhelmingly based in Labour-voting, urban, Remain leaning seats.

And not a single top flight side has the word “town” in its title, even if a few sides are based in towns.

Yes, this stuff can be overdone, and it appears the vast majority of fans of the six English clubs that were involved in the Super League were as appalled by it as many other football fans.

But it underlines how geography matters.

So the European Super League managed to unite the usual squabbling political tribes, who only competed in how strong their condemnation of the idea was.

“This is about something that you feel belongs to you, being taken away from you,” Deborah Mattinson reflects.

In that sense, this was always a row about much more than football.

It also tells us about some of the forces reshaping our political landscape, and the way in which our political leaders are being forced to adapt.

Key Boris Johnson aide Lord Udny-Lister leaves Downing Street

One of Boris Johnson’s closest aides, Lord Udny-Lister, is leaving his role as the prime minister’s special envoy to the Gulf, Downing Street has said.

The 71-year-old peer, who served as Mr Johnson’s chief of staff when he was mayor of London, had been appointed to the post earlier this year.

He was first brought into No 10 as chief strategy adviser when Mr Johnson became prime minister in 2019.

No 10 said Lord Udny-Lister had “been an outstanding servant to the country”.

A Downing Street spokesman said the prime minister “is hugely grateful for Lord Lister’s dedicated service over many years… to the government and to the prime minister when he was mayor of London”.

Earlier this month it was confirmed that Mr Johnson had asked Lord Udny-Lister, a Middle East expert, to check on a Saudi Arabia-backed takeover bid of Newcastle United Football Club.

It came after the Daily Mail reported the prime minister was contacted when the £300m deal ran into difficulties.

The government denied it was involved “at any point” with the failed bid.

Downing Street said Lord Udny-Lister was asked to look into the progress of the deal but was not asked to intervene.

Hartlepool by-election: Voyeur Christopher Killick stands

A sex offender hoping to be Hartlepool’s next MP has vowed to continue his campaign despite his voyeurism conviction being revealed.

Christopher Killick is standing as an Independent in the 6 May by-election.

He was convicted last year for filming a naked woman in a hotel room while she was unconscious, following the woman’s five-year campaign for justice.

Killick, 41, who recently moved to Hartlepool, said it was “inevitable” his conviction would come out.

He did not, however, declare his conviction on any election forms or tell anyone who nominated him as a candidate about the offence.

“I decided not to mention it to them to make it simpler or easier for me,” he said.

The former shop assistant was given a 30-month community order and was fined £2,000 after admitting voyeurism.

He was also put on the sex offenders register for five years and ordered to pay his victim £5,000 in compensation.

Killick had filmed a 62-second clip of the woman in a hotel room in Bethnal Green, east London, in 2015.

His victim campaigned for five years to have him prosecuted after the CPS claimed his actions were not illegal.

To be an MP, a candidate has to be at least 18 years old on the day they are nominated and a citizen of Britain, Ireland or the Commonwealth.

According to the Electoral Commission, certain people can be disqualified from standing though.

These include:

Killick expressed regret over the offence, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

He said: “I’ve always maintained that it was a big mistake and I want to say I’m sorry.

“Although I didn’t talk about the offence on my election leaflet, I’m not trying to hide what happened.

“I’m here, I’ve been sentenced in court, I’m not barred. 

“I do want to emphasise that I am actually here to campaign politically. My goal is purely to help this country.

“It was inevitable it would come out so I’m just playing it as it comes really.”

Killick is one of 16 candidates vying to be Hartlepool’s next MP, after Labour’s Mike Hill resigned.

Mr Hill is facing claims of sexual harassment and victimisation, which he denies.

Lobbying row: Why ministers have two mobile phones

The lobbying controversy that has enveloped Westminster is a complex and fast-developing story but there is one strand running right through the centre of it – the smartphone.

WhatsApp and text messages have replaced face-to-face meetings and letters as the favourite method of communication for politicians.

The casual, and sometimes untraceable, nature of these communications can make it harder for the Civil Service to ensure everyone – ministers, officials, businesses and lobbyists – plays by the rules.

It wasn’t that long ago that everything was typed out in triplicate, and phone calls were routed through Whitehall switchboards, with officials listening in and taking notes.

Tony Blair didn’t get a mobile phone until he left Downing Street in 2007. Now politicians, like the rest of us, can’t live without them.

Following a series of revelations about ministers’ use of texts and messaging apps, Labour has warned that the UK is heading towards “government by WhatsApp”.

It’s a catchy slogan, but it might be a bit dated, as the prime minister and other leading politicians are reportedly migrating to Signal, a rival messaging app.

Users can set encrypted messages to automatically delete after short periods of time, even as short as five seconds.

They can also stop screenshots being taken of exchanges if they are using an Android phone.

Messages sent and received on Facebook-owned WhatsApp – which has been around since 2009 – are also encrypted, but screenshots can be taken and shared.

Ministers are issued with work mobile phones when they get a job in government. Until a few years ago, they were given Blackberries, but now the iPhone seems to be the favoured brand.

The idea is to ensure that professional and personal calls, texts and emails are kept separate from their personal communications.

“I was given a phone as soon as I started,” one former Conservative minister tells the BBC, “but I wasn’t sat down and issued with any advice on how to use it.”

A government source says: “Clearly ministers may have informal conversations from time-to-time, whether that is in person, via digital communications or remotely, and if they find themselves discussing official business then significant content from such discussions should be passed back to officials.”

In official guidance, designed for private emails but applying to all electronic communications, ministers are told to work out whether they include details on “substantive discussions” or “decisions” made on government business.

If they do, they should then forward them to civil servants.

The ministerial code, laying out general rules of behaviour, says that a private secretary or another official should be present for “all discussions relating to government”, to ensure transparency.

If that’s impossible – such as when ministers chat to business leaders at social events – they have to report back to civil servants as soon as possible.

It’s widely accepted that phone messaging should be reported in the same way if it’s about important official business.

But the Institute for Government (IfG) think tank wants a tightening of the rules, so that all messages sent and received on official phones – about whatever topic – are logged, with the names of those taking part published quarterly. This already happens for meetings ministers attend.

“There needs to a public record that something’s happened,” IfG associate director Tim Durrant says. “Texting’s essentially a conversation, like a meeting.”

A source who used to work in Whitehall in a senior role says it was “normal” for ministers to have text exchanges with business leaders – and then let civil servants know about them.

“There’s nothing wrong with the leaders of this country talking to captains of industry,” they add. “It’s a part of how government functions. We live in a free country.

“What really annoys me is that there’s an assumption of wrongdoing of some sort here. It’s wrong to say government is run by text message. It’s a form of communication that everyone uses for personal and official matters.”

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage told Times Radio ministers did not hand out their mobile numbers “willy-nilly” and there were “very clear rules” about handing contacts to civil servants.

But Labour argues that the government’s use of messaging fosters “cronyism”, that those with ministers’ phone numbers have an unfair advantage over those who do not.

An ex-minister tells the BBC they kept personal and officially messages completely separate when they were in office.

“You have to rely on people using their common sense,” they add.

“Some ministers actually hand the work mobile across to be carried by a special adviser or a member of their team, so they’re not too close to it and don’t use it in an inappropriate way.

“You’ve also got be careful as to whom you give your number out to.”

Some in government have suggested the prime minister should be less willing to share his personal contact details, the BBC understands, but officials have denied that he was told to change his number.

But Mr Johnson says he will keep his phone, arguing: “I need to be in touch with people… You need one these days.”

And there would inevitably be resistance to any rule change among some in Whitehall.

One former special adviser asks: “What are ministers supposed to do? Put in a 30-page submission for every transaction they carry out, even in the midst of a pandemic?”

Downing Street flat refurbishment: What is the row all about?

Boris Johnson is facing questions over how expensive renovations of his Downing Street flat were paid for.

Labour has called for a full inquiry into the issue. But for those who haven’t been following every twist and turn – here are the basics you need to know.

Like several of his recent predecessors, Mr Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds are living in the flat above No 11 Downing Street, the chancellor’s official residence.

The four-bedroom flat, which is much larger than the one above No 10, has had periodic improvements made to it in the past.

The Grade 1 listed building is owned by the UK government but prime ministers can live there while they are in power.

The flat was extensively refurbished by David and Samantha Cameron in 2011 at a cost of £30,000 – the maximum public grant available to prime ministers each year for the upkeep of their home.

Tony and Cherie Blair also spent thousands on turning the space into a family home when they lived there.

Now Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds have also carried out work on the flat, which was understood to be largely complete by early March.

Interior designer Lulu Lytle has been involved in the upgrade, a source has told the BBC.

Ms Lytle is the co-founder of Soane Britain, an upmarket London-based firm which specialises in traditional craft methods.

The couple wanted to transform the flat from Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May’s “John Lewis furniture nightmare” into a “high society haven”, according to Tatler.

Prime ministers receive an annual allowance of up to £30,000 a year from the public purse to contribute towards the costs of maintaining and furnishing their Downing Street home.

But the question is – did the most recent works cost more than that? There has been speculation the final bill could be up to £200,000, although there has been no official comment on this.

Details of how much of the £30,000 allowance was spent during the 2020-21 financial year are not yet available but on Friday Cabinet Office Minister Lord True said painting, sanding and floorboards work had been done by long-standing Downing Street contractors.

In an answer to a written question, Lord True added: “Any costs of wider refurbishment in this year have been met by the prime minister personally.”

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss also told the BBC Mr Johnson had paid for the renovations “from his own pocket”.

But there are questions over whether the money originally came from another source – and the prime minister then paid it back.

The Daily Mail has reported that the Conservative Party has received a £58,000 donation in relation to the flat.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Ms Truss did not answer repeated questions on whether a Tory donor initially provided the money for the refurbishments.

There have been reports that Mr Johnson tried to set up a charitable trust for the purpose of preserving Downing Street’s heritage, which could help fund the refurbishments through donations from Tory supporters.

In the US, a scheme of this kind pays for restoration work in the White House.

This is where the picture gets a bit more complicated.

According to a leaked email obtained by the Daily Mail, the Tory peer Lord Brownlow wrote to the party’s head of fundraising last October informing him he was making a donation, including “£58,000 to cover the payments the party has already made on behalf of the soon to be formed ‘Downing Street Trust’ – of which I have been made chairman”.

A second leaked email from Lord Brownlow in June 2020 showed the decision to set up the trust was taken by Mr Johnson as long as 10 months ago, the paper reported.

But to date, no such trust has been formed.

Lord True said the government “has been considering the merits of whether works on parts or all of the Downing Street estate could be funded by a trust”.

“This could mirror long-standing arrangements in place for Chequers [the prime minister’s country residence] (a private trust) or for Dorneywood [a country home for a senior member of the government] (a charitable trust), reducing the need for subsidy from the public purse,” he added.

The PM has faced questions over the funding of the refurbishments for a number of weeks – but the issue was thrust into the spotlight again on Friday by an explosive blog post by his former chief advisor, Dominic Cummings.

Mr Cummings alleged Mr Johnson once planned to have donors “secretly pay” for the work on his flat, which he said was “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 called for an inquiry and for the prime minister to reveal the full amount that was spent on the flat and who paid for it in the first place.

There are also potential issues over transparency.

Political parties have to report donations and loans to the Electoral Commission if they are above £7,500.

MPs must also declare any donations which could influence their actions in the Commons Register of Members’ Financial Interests within 28 days.

The government is supposed to publish the list of ministers’ financial interests twice a year – but the last one showing money donated to them was released in July 2020.

The Electoral Commission said it was working to establish whether any funds relating to the renovations fell within its remit of political donations, and therefore needed to be published.

In response to Mr Cummings’s claims, a No 10 spokesperson said: “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.

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

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