Boris Johnson told his ethics adviser his failure to disclose key messages about the financing of his Downing Street flat redecoration was because he had recently changed phone numbers.
According to The Telegraph, the prime minister convinced Lord Geidt – the independent adviser on ministerial standards – that he did not mislead him over his personal involvement in the scandal.
Johnson’s defence for not disclosing a message between himself and a Tory donor who paid for the refurbishment was that he had changed his mobile number.
That meant that previous conversations on his old device – including a smoking gun WhatsApp message subsequently uncovered by the election watchdog – were not transferred over to his new one.
Last month, the Electoral Commission revealed that Johnson had sent Tory peer Lord Brownlow a WhatsApp message in November 2020 “asking him to authorise further, at that stage unspecified, refurbishment works on the residence”.
But Johnson had previously said he had no knowledge of the payments until immediately prior to media reports in February 2021.
The investigation prompted Lord Geidt to demand clarification from No 10 amid claims that he had been misled by the prime minister.
The prime minister’s official spokesman declined to say whether Johnson has apologised to Lord Geidt.
Lord Geidt previously cleared the Prime Minister of breaching the code in relation to the funding of the flat refurbishment.
But the Electoral Commission fined the Conservatives £17,800 after it found the party had not followed the law over donations by Lord Brownlow to help cover the renovations, with costs exceeding £112,500.
The watchdog said the Tories had failed to “accurately report a donation and keep a proper accounting record” of the money handed over by the peer in October 2020.
Downing Street previously insisted that Johnson had not lied to Lord Geidt, and the Telegraph said the adviser was to uphold his initial decision that no rules were broken.
But the newspaper reported he would express his dissatisfaction that he had not been provided with the messages before, and had not been made aware of them before the Electoral Commission investigation was released.
A video by Peter Stefanovic on the scandal has over 1.2million views.