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Mandrake: The ongoing saga of Boris’ extravagant home refurbishment

Despite the prime minister's other errors that continue to come to light, the news of his expensive home renovations isn't going away.

Boris Johnson gives a thumbs-up outside Downing Street. Photo: Jeremy Selwyn - Pool/Getty Images.

The pressures of state do not appear to have distracted Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie from their core objective of making their Downing Street home still more luxurious.

Mandrake hears the local council has just green-lighted plans to remove a partition wall and relocate a door to “improve locker room, shower and WC facilities.” The application, submitted in September, relates to interconnecting rooms on the third floors of numbers 11 and 12 Downing St.

The Johnsons have lived in the apartment above No.11 since he became prime minister in July 2019. They have installed wooden floors, designer furnishings and expensive, if not hugely tasteful, wallpaper. They are said to find the place “poky” and want to “open it up”.

Security is cited as the reason why the plans are not available for examination, but Westminster Council stresses that the works on the Grade 1 listed building are not irreversible.

“The changes are minimally intrusive and reversible to the listed building fabric, and therefore… have a negligible impact upon the significance of the buildings,” they say. The cost, due to be reported in due course, are part of £4m of works to Downing St and 70 Whitehall so far undertaken on the watch of Johnson (pictured).

Absent friend

The invitations to Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail Christmas party at Claridge’s went out before Martin Clarke’s surprise resignation as boss of Mail Online. His lordship may well now be regretting breaking with tradition and declaring that “speeches” were to be included at the event.

The intention had apparently been to have his new ruling editorial junta of Paul Dacre, Ted Verity and Clarke put up a show of unity to reassure guests after Geordie Greig’s abrupt departure. It’s, of course, unlikely I will be invited, but I can take comfort that The Daily Telegraph – another paper I once worked for – appears to have finally found it in its heart to forgive me for blaspheming against Brexit.

When I stood down as the Lib Dem candidate in Canterbury in 2019, the paper described me merely as “a journalist,” making no mention of my 12 years toiling for them. I was therefore heartened over the weekend to see that I was quoted extensively in their tribute to the late great Sir Antony Sher.

Sitting pretty

Gavin Williamson appears to have reached that happy point in life when it’s no longer necessary to make more money, but simply to manage what he’s already amassed.

The former education secretary declares in the latest register of members’ interests that he’s set up a private business called Gratton Lansdowne to “manage” his “financial affairs and investments”. He is listed as its sole director.

There’s no need to secure approval for this from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments as it doesn’t necessitate him taking on clients.

Lording it

Dame Cressida Dick once said that when she became the story, she knew it’d be time to quit as Metropolitan Police commissioner. The latest in a long line of damning stories about her involve a curious reluctance to investigate partying in Downing St last Christmas when London was under tier 3 Covid restrictions.

“She’s 61 and knows she can’t keep the job forever and she’s got her heart set on a seat in the Lords,” one observer speculates. “Commissioners generally end up in the House of Lords, but not always. One can see why she wouldn’t want to antagonise Boris Johnson.”

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