Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages set to be trapped in Election Commission investigation into flab renovation
The Election Commission will have the right to demand emails and WhatsApp messages from the Prime Minister and key members of his staff as part of the investigation into how he financed the renovation of the Downing Street apartment.
The central question of the investigation will be whether Tory donors paid for the revision before being reimbursed by the party or by Boris Johnson personally. But opposition politicians are pushing the watchdog to make its scope as wide as possible, to ensure that all questions about the controversy are ultimately answered.
Under the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009, the Election Commission has extensive powers to demand any documentation that may relate to alleged offenses under investigation. The issuance of a “disclosure notice” requires the recipient to hand over all information – in whatever form – relevant to the investigation.
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It can also force individuals to attend interviews, with criminal penalties for those who refuse. Besides the Prime Minister, those at risk of toasting include Dominic Cummings, donor David Brownlow who has been proposed as head of a Downing Street trust, Tory co-chairs Amanda Milling and Ben Elliott, and longtime adviser from Mr. Johnson, Eddie Lister. His fiancee Carrie Symonds, seen in Westminster as the driving force behind the renovations, could also be called to testify.
The prime minister vowed to cooperate fully with the investigation, telling reporters: “We will comply with whatever they want.” However, many senior Tories have previously accused the Election Commission of being biased and unfairly targeting Brexit supporters.
The watchdog has fined Leave activist Darren Grimes £ 20,000 for alleged electoral law violations in the EU referendum, to have the verdict overturned in court. The ministers suggested abolishing it entirely and handing over its existing powers to other organizations.
The other main inquiry into the Downing Street apartment, led by Lord Geidt who is the new independent adviser on ministerial interests, has no statutory powers, but Mr Johnson said he would provide him with all the evidence required. Sir Alex Allan, the former adviser who resigned after the PM ignored his advice on Priti Patel, said I: “I know Christopher Geidt and I welcome his appointment.”