Lord Brownlow: Multimillionaire ex-cop who rubs shoulders with royalty now at centre of PM flat refurb claims

·4-min read

A multimillionaire ex-policeman - who rubs shoulders with royalty and has invested in the fashion chain of the wife of a former prime minister - is now at the centre of claims about Boris Johnson's flat refurbishment.

Lord Brownlow of Shurlock Row has been thrust into the row over how and when the costs of the prime minister's works on his private residence above 11 Downing Street were paid.

The 57-year-old is estimated to be worth £267m, according to last year's Sunday Times Rich List.

As well as his business and charity interests, he has previously described himself as an avid reader of crime fiction and a builder of complex Lego models - including the Taj Mahal.

His name has become linked to Mr Johnson's refurbishment of his Downing Street flat after it recently emerged Lord Brownlow offered the Conservative Party a £58,000 donation last year.

The money was reportedly to "cover the payments the party has already made on behalf of the soon to be formed 'Downing Street Trust'".

In leaked emails, seen by the Daily Mail, to Conservative Party officials from October, the Tory peer also mentioned a £15,000 donation.

However, only the £15,000 donation has been listed on Electoral Commission records, with mystery surrounding the other £58,000 sum.

Away from the questions over Mr Johnson's refurbishment Downing Street flat, Lord Brownlow is no stranger to handing over money to the Tories.

Electoral Commission records show he has donated close to £3m over the last six years - both personally and through his business, Huntswood Associates.

He also donated £100,000 to the Remain campaign ahead of the EU referendum in 2016.

And he dined with previous Conservative leaders David Cameron and Theresa May as part of the elite "Leader's Group" of top party donors - membership of which costs £50,000 per year.

Lord Brownlow had a dinner with Mrs May at Chequers in November 2017. After Mrs May quit as PM in 2019, she recommended Lord Brownlow for a life peerage and his seat in the House of Lords.

The Conservative Party has recently been criticised for no longer publishing a public register of the elite dining group on its website.

Lord Brownlow co-founded Huntswood as a recruitment consultancy in 1996, after eight years working in the sector, according to his website.

He had previously spent two years as a police officer with Thames Valley Police, based in Slough, after graduating with an economics degree from Newcastle Polytechnic.

As well as Huntswood, which is now described as a "specialist resourcing and consultancy firm", Lord Brownlow went on to co-found a second business, Havisham, in 2013.

The investment and trading firm has interests in a range of areas, including travel, property, fashion, pubs, restaurants, technology, financial services and filmmaking.

One of Havisham's investments includes Cefinn, the fashion brand created by Samantha Cameron, the wife of ex-prime minister David Cameron.

Lord Brownlow is also a director of Samantha Cameron Studio Limited.

Speaking to The Times about his investment in Cefinn in 2018, Lord Brownlow denied his political links to the Tories played any part in his decision.

"I like the creative direction of the business," he said. "I am joining because it's a business I like and I want to help it grow."

Lord Brownlow has also established the David Brownlow Charitable Foundation, through which he has donated to a school supported by Prince Harry's charity in Lesotho.

He also sponsored a garden created by Sentebale at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2015.

Lord Brownlow has also met with members of the Royal Family while sponsoring races at Ascot fundraisers for Prince Charles's charity, The Prince's Countryside Fund.

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He now finds himself wrapped up in the row over how Mr Johnson funded the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.

It has been confirmed that the government has, since last spring, been looking into whether a trust could be established to help fund upgrades of the prime minister's residence in Downing Street, with Lord Brownlow having agreed to be its chair.

But no such trust currently exists and Mr Johnson is now said to have "personally" paid for the costs of a "wider refurbishment" of the flat he shares with his fiancee Carrie Symonds.

Yet both Number 10 and the Conservative Party have not denied reports that Conservative Campaign Headquarters paid the Cabinet Office to cover initial costs of the works.

The Electoral Commission is holding "discussions" with the Conservative Party to establish whether any sums relating to the refurbishment of the Number 11 flat should have been declared.