“The saga of the Downing Street flat would be laughable in most countries,” says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Does anyone really think the PM’s residence shouldn’t befit his lofty station? Tatty old No 10 was never intended “as anything but an office pad”. Margaret Thatcher was said to be particularly aghast by her “attic” after visiting the Queen at Balmoral, and the Blair family were so squashed that they moved into No 11. It’s about time incoming prime ministers didn’t “suffer the indignity of worrying over who pays to decorate the virtual prison in which they must live, let alone have to pay for it themselves”.
Mounting allegations of corruption are what really matter. The coronavirus “VIP lane” for crony contracts was, on one estimate, worth £3.7bn. Johnson’s old City Hall chum and special envoy to the Gulf, Lord Udny-Lister, allegedly used his public role to tie up property deals. He slid out of office last week. Everywhere you look, parliament teems with licensed lobbyists whose wealth testifies to their effectiveness. The PM’s real vice is passing over talented up-and-comers for sycophantic bootlickers and big wallets. Honesty used to be hailed as a unique selling proposition of the British government. “Today a British diplomat criticising a foreign regime for corruption would be laughed out of court.”