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The Guardian view on Boris Johnson’s donors: what is the quid pro quo? | Editorial

The prime minister’s practised insouciance in the face of outrage looks designed to create a tolerance for sleaze in Westminster

Corruption is defined as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. This term cannot – yet – be applied to describe what has gone on with the refurbishment of the four-bedroom Downing Street flat by Boris Johnson. The facts have yet to be shown. But on Monday, Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, did not deny claims that private donors helped to pay to renovate the prime minister’s home. The generous public grant of £30,000 available to spend on the flat was, apparently, not enough. This seems to contradict the government’s assertion that Mr Johnson had funded the refurbishment all along.

The issue of who paid to transform Mr Johnson’s Downing Street home – from “John Lewis furniture nightmare” into a “high society haven” – is not Westminster tittle-tattle. There has been no transparency about said donation. Mr Johnson hides behind such obfuscations. We still do not know who paid for the Caribbean holiday that he took after winning the 2019 general election. It is doubtful that Mr Johnson would not feel indebted to wealthy benefactors. Which is why the latest row risks becoming a defining issue for the government. It opens Mr Johnson up to accusations that his government is for sale.

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