WORLD / EUROPE
Johnson under growing pressure
British leader facing scrutiny over alleged misconduct
Published: Apr 25, 2021 06:58 PM
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced growing scrutiny Sunday following explosive accusations by his former chief aide Dominic Cummings earlier this week that he lacks competence and integrity.

Cummings, who stepped down as his top adviser in December, used a personal blog Friday to allege Johnson tried to solicit potentially illegal donations to renovate his publicly funded Downing Street flat.

He also claimed the UK leader suggested blocking an internal inquiry into government leaks, because the culprit identified was a close friend of Johnson's fiancée Carrie ­Symonds.

Johnson's office has dismissed the damning accusations, insisting all "reportable donations" are transparently disclosed and that the prime minister "has never interfered in a government leak inquiry."

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said Sunday the claims were "a massive distraction" and that she had been assured all rules have been fully complied with.

"This is tittle tattle that's being promoted and I don't think it addresses the key issues the people of Britain care about," she told Sky News.

But the charges, which follow weeks of stories about allegedly inappropriate lobbying and sleaze involving Johnson, his ministers and officials, have dominated news headlines and front pages over the weekend.

Some Conservatives have joined the condemnation of Johnson, with former attorney general Dominic Grieve, a long-time critic, branding him "a vacuum of integrity."

They have also prompted the main opposition Labour Party to call for a "root and branch" independent inquiry into the use of taxpayers' money by Johnson's government.  

"Whether I back Dominic Cummings' view or Boris ­Johnson's view, what we need is a proper independent inquiry where it isn't about two boys fighting and is about taxpayers in our country," Labour lawmaker Jess Phillips told Sky News.

She confirmed the party will pose an urgent question in parliament this week about the allegations surrounding Johnson's flat refurbishment.

Cummings, the controversial brains behind the 2016 campaign for Britain to leave the EU, was appointed chief adviser by Johnson when he took power in July 2019.

He helped to secure a thumping election victory that December, but his frequent clashes with colleagues are said to have led to persistent tensions and he left government a year later.

Cummings' reputation had been severely damaged after he went on a lengthy cross-country journey with his family, claiming he and his wife needed help from relatives after they both developed COVID-19 symptoms, despite stay-at-home rules in force.

In his most serious claim Friday, Cummings wrote he had warned Johnson against plans to use Conservative Party donations in an "unethical, foolish, possibly illegal" way to renovate his Downing Street apartment.
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