7 Times Politicians Splashed The Cash And Ended Up In Hot Water

Boris Johnson has divided the internet again following new revelations that he has acquired two new artworks in No.10 – which cost nearly £100,000 in total.

The news has understandably left the public frustrated, especially as it comes only a short time after the government announced new cuts to universal credit and the public sector.

But it’s not the first time politicians have fallen into the public’s bad books over their rather relaxed approach to spending.

The Brexit jet revamp

Downing Street spent £900,000 giving an RAF plane a new look last year when the Union Jack was painted onto it.

The public were outraged at the “national branding” which seemed rather unnecessary in the middle of a pandemic.

The SNP described it as a a “Tory red, white and blue vanity project” and a “waste of public money”, although a government spokesperson claimed it represented “value for money”.

Labour MP Chris Bryant told the BBC: “People who are on furlough in my constituency and are terrified they are going to lose their jobs will be wondering why on earth this is a priority.”

The jet was also flown only once in the first five months after its expensive makeover.

The RAF voyager itself was first re-purposed for use back in 2015 at the cost of £10 million. 

Then there was the second Brexit jet

A six-month-old Airbus A321 underwent the same treatment back in March, and was painted in the colours of the Union Jack.

The government once again defended its decision and said it was “global Britain livery” – but failed to comment on the cost of the lease or the new paintwork.

This plane is meant for short-haul journey to Europe or the US’ east coast, while the RAF Voyager is to be used when ministers or the Royal Family fly further afield.

It will cost taxpayers up to £75 million over the next five years, as confirmed by the Cabinet Office.

Labour MP Clive Lewis complained at the time, and said: “Why does he need two planes?

“This is all about ‘Global Britain’, it is about the projection of influence and power, and there are better ways to show leadership in the world than having a carbon footprint the size of a yeti.”

The SNP also called for the government to “come clean over how much public money it has spent on this second private plane”, while other opposition MPs accused Downing Street of “utterly unacceptable use of public funds”.

Downing Street got a makeover

In April, it emerged that the prime minister had spent a pretty penny doing up his Downing Street flat.

The Daily Mail reported that Johnson had even told aides that his partner, then called Carrie Symonds, was “buying gold wallpaper” and the bill was “totally out of control”.

Aides were said to have asked him how much the upgrades cost, with Johnson allegedly replying: “Tens and tens of thousands, I can’t afford it.”

The Electoral Commission even launched a formal investigation into his home makeover, claiming: “An offence or offences may have occurred.”

In July, No10 maintained it had cost an estimated £58,000 to do up Johnson’s home, after he reportedly rejected his predecessor Theresa May’s decor as a “John Lewis nightmare”.

It was later revealed the Cabinet Office charged any costs which exceeded the prime minister’s £30,000 annual allowance for repairs to the Conservative Party; Johnson then footed the bill himself earlier this year.

While he was cleared of any ministerial code breach, the incident triggered a national row over whether Johnson could have afforded such a refurb if Tory donors had not backed him up.

Lord Geidt, the prime minister’s ethics adviser, even said Johnson had acted “unwisely” over the funding of the flat. 

No.10′s press room got a facelift

Downing Street decided to revamp its media briefing room to give it more of a White House feel back in March.

The government spent more than £2.6 million on a new conference room, and claimed this spending “is in the public interest” and will “increase public accountability and transparency”.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner pointed out how the government were willing to spend money on a single Downing Street room but limited themselves to granting just a one percent pay rise for NHS nurses.

She said: “It would take around 100 years for a newly qualified nurse to get paid that kind of money.

“It sums up Boris Johnson’s warped priorities that he can find millions for vanity projects while picking the pockets of NHS workers.”

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden defended the move, and claimed the room previously used for press conferences was “not fit for purpose” because it was too small.

He alleged that it was therefore not a “waste of money” and instead replicated the style of press rooms used by leaders all over the world.

But Downing Street then dropped the plans to hold daily White House-style press briefings in the new room.

The PM’s holiday left everyone confused

The prime minister was cleared of any wrongdoing in July by a parliament committee after furore broke out around his holiday to Mustique in December 2019.

Johnson initially said a Tory donor David Ross had facilitated his trip overseas by paying for his £15,000 holiday accommodation on the luxury island, only for Ross to say he had not paid “any monies” for the trip. 

However, he later admitted he had “facilitated” accommodation for Johnson, a claim backed up by the Committee on Standards’ investigation. 

But the committee added that the arrangements were “ad hoc and informal and do not appear to have been fully explained to Mr Johnson at the outset”.

It then said it was “regrettable” that a “full account and explanation of the funding arrangements” had only emerged because of their own enquiries.

The incident also provided a picture of Johnson’s haphazard approach to his finances, with the committee complaining that they had expected him to “go the extra mile” to provide clarity around his financial arrangements, having been “twice reprimanded” for similar acts before.

The whole incident left the country bemused about Johnson’s lavish lifestyle and why he relied on Tory donors – especially as he earns £157,000 a year as prime minister and an MP, and pays no rent at Downing Street, only £7,000 a year in running costs.

Oh, and there’s more

These were only the most recent financial mishaps which made it to the public.

There have been previous rows about the costs of former prime minister Tony Blair’s makeup – he allegedly spent more than £1,800 of taxpayers’ money on his appearance during his first six years in office – not to mention the expenses scandal of 2009.

MPs were found to have claimed misused the allowances and expenses permitted to them, prompting a wave of resignations, sackings and de-selections at the time in the largest political scandal in modern history.

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