Michael Gove’s wife has come to the defence of Boris Johnson over allegations surrounding his flat refurbishment, by claiming that he “can’t be expected to live in a skip”.
Sarah Vine, who is married to the Cabinet Office minister, said the prime minister must live “to a certain standard” and that it is “perfectly reasonable” for him to want to change the colour of his sofa.
Prime ministers are allocated a budget of up to £30,000 per year to renovate their Downing Street residency, but newspaper reports have suggested Johnson has spent up to £200,000 on the changes.
According to the Daily Mail, Johnson told aides he could not afford the revamp of his Downing Street flat as the costs started to spiral.
Vine, a Daily Mail columnist said someone needs to “bite the bullet” and say that a fund is needed to ensure “decent furnishings” at Downing Street.
She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “The thing about the whole No 10 refurbishment thing is that the prime minister can’t be expected to live in a skip.
“He has to live to a certain standard and the problem with all of these political things like this is that no-one is ever prepared to bite the bullet.
“No-one is ever prepared to say ‘look, this building does need to be maintained, there do need to be decent furnishings, we do need to have a fund that pays for it, let’s just do it’.”
Vine said Johnson is “working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to run the country which is quite a difficult job to do”.
She added: “If he wants to have a pink sofa instead of a green sofa, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable thing for him to want.”
While she does not think the taxpayer should fund such work, she said a “transparent” arrangement for refurbishment is the way forward.
“I think if it was just very transparent and simple, and it was a trust or whatever, and it was clear what the situation was and there was a clear budget, say £30,000 a year or whatever it is, or when there’s a new incumbent there’s a one-off payment that enables you to change the curtains, I think that would be very clear and very simple.”
She said this approach would mean “my husband wouldn’t have to cancel all his very important NHS procurement meetings on an afternoon to go and answer an urgent question about curtains”.