Tories attack Keir Starmer’s John Lewis photo op dig amid Downing Street flat refurbishment row

Sean Morrison
·2-min read
Regional mayoral elections (PA Wire)
Regional mayoral elections (PA Wire)

Conservatives have criticised Sir Keir Starmer for making a dig at Boris Johnson over the Downing Street refurbishment row by visiting a John Lewis store for a photo opportunity.

Tory chair Amanda Milling said the Labour leader was "playing political games" by posing with rolls of wallpaper at a branch in Greater Manchester.

Prime Minister Mr Johnson faces a probe into the controversial renovation of the flat.

He had been asked asked about reports he and his fiancee Carrie Symonds had rejected furnishings by the department store left in the Number 11 flat by his predecessor Theresa May.

Sir Keir used a campaign visit to poke fun at the Prime Minister. He browsed the wallpaper section of the John Lewis store in Manchester’s Trafford Centre.

Reports have suggested wallpaper costing up to £840 a roll was used in the Downing Street flat refurbishment.

Sir Keir’s photo opportunity appeared to anger Ms Milling, who tweeted one of the pictures and wrote: “When we say Labour are playing political games this is exactly what we mean.

“Today the PM visited a school to see how we are levelling-up opportunity, focusing on people’s priorities. Keir Starmer is doing exactly what we said he’d do - playing politics.”

It comes after the British retailer appeared to mock Mr Johnson by suggesting it had something for “almost” everyone as the Electoral Commission launched an investigation into how the new look was funded.

When asked about the reports during a visit to King Solomon Academy in west London on Thursday, the Prime Minister told broadcasters: “The one thing I object to in this whole farrago of nonsense is I love John Lewis.

“But what I will say is what people want this Government to do is focus on their priorities.”

Ms Symonds, 33, reportedly saw the lavish overhaul as necessary to rid the Prime Minister’s residence of the “John Lewis nightmare” left behind by Mrs May, according to Tatler.

The taxpayer funds a £30,000 annual allowance but the redecoration, which reportedly involves the company Soane, co-founded by designer Lulu Lytle – have stretched beyond that.

Some reports suggest the upgrades hit the £200,000 mark while a leaked email suggested Tory peer Lord Brownlow was making a £58,000 donation to the Conservatives “to cover the payments the party has already made on behalf of the soon-to-be-formed ‘Downing Street Trust’”.

Mr Johnson said he did not believe “there is anything to see here” when asked about the Electoral Commission’s investigation, telling reporters: “What we are doing is focusing on the stuff that really matters.”

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