British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a new sleaze probe after it emerged his 2019 Christmas holiday in the Caribbean was paid for by a Tory donor.
Parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Stone confirmed to UK news outlets on Monday morning that she was looking into a possible breach of the MPs' code of conduct.
Stone said the probe was “registration of interest under category 4 of the guide to the rules [visits outside the UK] in 2020”.
The latest allegations concern the PM's trip with his fiancée Carrie Symonds to the island of Mustique in St Vincent and the Grenadines for Christmas 2019 and New Year 2020, which was widely reported — and criticised upon — at the time amid the looming COVID-19 pandemic.
Johnson listed the holiday in the Parliamentary register of members’ interests as a “benefit in kind” on 27 January 2020, three weeks after he returned. The entry accounted for “accommodation for a private holiday for my partner and me” worth £15,000 courtesy of Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross, a Conservative Party donor, suggesting that the couple stayed in a holiday home owned by the multi-millionaire.
Ross initially denied paying for the trip, but later admitted that was a "mistake" and that he had "facilitated" the PM's holiday.
“Mr Ross facilitated accommodation for Mr Johnson on Mustique valued at £15,000," the businessman's spokesman said. "Therefore this is a benefit in kind from Mr Ross to Mr Johnson, and Mr Johnson’s declaration to the House of Commons is correct.”
Opposition Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, who was demoted from party chairwoman in leader Keir Starmer's Sunday shadow cabinet reshuffle, seized on the reports in a bid to score political points in the wake of Thursday's disastrous election results for her party.
— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) May 10, 2021
“The public have a right to know who paid for Boris Johnson’s luxury Caribbean holiday and the renovation of his flat," Rayner said. Most importantly, we need to know what these donors were promised or expected in return for their generosity."
But Rayner failed to mention the four free holidays former Labour PM Tony Blair enjoyed at the lavish 19th-century Villa Cusona in Tuscany — owned by his aristocratic friend Prince Girolamo Strozzi, a member of one of Italy's oldest banking families. Italian media came to nickname Blair “Lo Scroccone” — The Scrounger — for his penchant for freebies in their country. Blair later repaid the favour by putting Strozzi up at the prime ministerial country retreat Chequers.
Recent corruption allegations against Johnson failed to stop the Tories taking the formerly rock-solid Labour seat of Hartlepool by a huge majority last Thursday, while consigning the opposition to new depths in council election results across England and coming close to unseating London Mayor Sadiq Khan.