The row over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s renovation costs for his Downing Street flat has intensified after a leading minister leapt to the PM’s defense.
Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, has claimed that the renovation work had been “fully declared” and that the PM had met the expense “from his own pocket”.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Truss declined to answer if the money for the renovation was initially supplied by a Tory party donor.
Declining to answer the question on no less than five occasions, Truss instead said: “What I know is the prime minister has personally met the costs of the flat refurbishment and that is what people in Britain want to know and that is what has happened".
The row first erupted when the PM’s erstwhile ally and chief strategist, Dominic Cummings, broke ranks and launched an incendiary assault on his former boss.
Writing in his blog, Cummings claimed that the PM had a “possibly illegal” plan for donors to cover the cost of the refurbishment.
Cummings – who himself is no stranger to controversy – writes that he advised Johnson the renovation plans were "unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended".
In keeping with an intermittent prime ministerial tradition, Johnson lives in the flat above 11 Downing Street – as opposed to the PM’s official residence at 10 Downing Street - with his fiancée Carrie Symonds.
The opposition Labor Party says the PM should come in front of MPs in the House of Commons on Monday (April 26) to directly answer questions about the whole affair.
For its part, the Electoral Commission says it is having “discussions” with the Tory party but has not yet decided to launch an investigation.
The row’s damage to the ruling Tory party is compounded by the ongoing – and separate – scandal surrounding the lobbying activities of former Prime Minister David Cameron.