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Boris’s despairing cry to Downing St aides about lavish new decor

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Like many of the most explosive political bombshells, the Downing Street flat scandal had a long fuse.

It was fourteen months ago – back in February 2020 – that officials first became alarmed by renovations to the No 11 flat.

They had good reason not to pay too much attention to decorators who had been at work there since the New Year. A dozen or so cases of Covid had been reported in Britain, and the possibility that it could endanger the UK was starting to be taken seriously by some Downing Street officials.

It was fourteen months ago – back in February 2020 – that officials first became alarmed by renovations to the No 11 flat. Pictured: Lulu Lytle's collection

It was fourteen months ago – back in February 2020 – that officials first became alarmed by renovations to the No 11 flat. Pictured: Lulu Lytle’s collection

Mr Johnson was still on a high from his election triumph in December 2019 and had had a Christmas holiday in Mustique in the Caribbean with partner Carrie Symonds – they were still to become engaged.

The couple were overjoyed to learn she was pregnant, though they had not yet shared the news with the rest of the world.

As is now well known, at this stage life-long libertarian Mr Johnson was among those who were less alarmed about the risk of a pandemic.

But he was suddenly alarmed by signs of a political problem closer to home.

They had good reason not to pay too much attention to decorators who had been at work there since the New Year. Pictured: Lulu Lytle's collection

They had good reason not to pay too much attention to decorators who had been at work there since the New Year. Pictured: Lulu Lytle’s collection

‘The cost is totally out of control – she’s buying gold wallpaper!’ he is said to have raged to aides.

It is not clear if this was classic Johnson hyperbole – or whether the wallpaper really is gold. In fact, the upmarket interior eco designer Lulu Lytle – whose Soane Britain company was commissioned by Miss Symonds – sells ‘Yellow Gold’ and ‘Old Gold’ wallpaper.

When aides asked him how much it was costing, he said: ‘Tens and tens of thousands – I can’t afford it.’

The Cabinet Office, which is in charge of maintaining the Downing Street estate, told him there was a £30,000-a-year publicly funded allowance for refurbishing the flat.

Mr Johnson would have to pay the rest – £58,000.

‘The cost is totally out of control – she’s buying gold wallpaper!’ he is said to have raged to aides. Pictured: Lulu Lytle's collection

‘The cost is totally out of control – she’s buying gold wallpaper!’ he is said to have raged to aides. Pictured: Lulu Lytle’s collection

It led to friction between Miss Symonds and Helen MacNamara, Director General of Propriety and Ethics in the Cabinet Office.

Miss Symonds is said to have urged Mr Johnson to sack Miss MacNamara after she refused to sign off extra money for the flat.

Despite his £150,000-a-year salary as Prime Minister, he is said to struggle to make ends meet as a result of losing an estimated £250,000 a year from his journalistic career as well as an expensive divorce with ex-wife Marina.

By March, Mr Johnson was having to take time out from crisis meetings on the pandemic to deal the issue his advisers called ‘Wallpaper-gate’ – after the 1970s Watergate political scandal in the US that brought down President Richard Nixon.

It is not clear if this was classic Johnson hyperbole – or whether the wallpaper really is gold

It is not clear if this was classic Johnson hyperbole – or whether the wallpaper really is gold

They started discussing who was going to pay Miss Lytle’s bill – and how.

Tory chairman Ben Elliot, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, is more noted for his political connections than his political achievements.

Like Mr Johnson he is an Old Etonian; he is best friends with another Old Etonian Lord (Zac) Goldsmith – more of whom later – and pals with Miss Symonds.

He is also a nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall.

Unlike famous Conservative chairmen of the past such as Norman Tebbit, Mr Elliot prefers to operate behind the scenes in No10 and Tory HQ.

Which is where he began to grapple with ‘Wallpaper-gate’.

In fact, the upmarket interior eco designer Lulu Lytle (designs pictured) – whose Soane Britain company was commissioned by Miss Symonds – sells ‘Yellow Gold’ and ‘Old Gold’ wallpaper

In fact, the upmarket interior eco designer Lulu Lytle (designs pictured) – whose Soane Britain company was commissioned by Miss Symonds – sells ‘Yellow Gold’ and ‘Old Gold’ wallpaper

Mr Johnson’s first idea was to ask Tory donor Lord Bamford, boss of the JCB construction giant, to pay off the £58,000.

Lord Bamford and his companies have given more than £10million to the Conservatives over the years – and wife Lady Bamford’s Daylesford farm shops delivered healthy meals to No10 after Mr Johnson recovered from Covid.

The Bamford option was dropped, though it is unclear why.

By early June, it is believed the Cabinet Office had paid the entire bill, including the ‘excess’ £58,000.

But it had to be paid back.

Mr Johnson’s team came up with another wheeze: a ‘blind trust’ modelled on the White House Trust used to maintain the US President’s Office.

Despite his £150,000-a-year salary as Prime Minister, he is said to struggle to make ends meet as a result of losing an estimated £250,000 a year from his journalistic career as well as an expensive divorce with ex-wife Marina

Despite his £150,000-a-year salary as Prime Minister, he is said to struggle to make ends meet as a result of losing an estimated £250,000 a year from his journalistic career as well as an expensive divorce with ex-wife Marina

The official aim was to ‘preserve Downing Street for posterity’ including the State Rooms.

In fact, it seems the real aim was to recoup the £58,000.

The advantage of the ‘blind trust’ would be that the prime minister of the day would not know who had given money to the trust so there could be no conflict of interest.

The proposal was soon abandoned as impractical.

Undeterred, Mr Johnson resolved to set up a different, more open, form of Downing Street trust.

Another multi-millionaire Tory donor, Lord Brownlow, was asked by Mr Johnson to set up the new trust.

It emerged yesterday that former Labour Chancellor Lord (Alistair) Darling turned down an offer in July to lead the trust.

So Lord Brownlow took on the job.

It was around this time that Tory HQ paid £58,000 to the Cabinet Office to clear the debt.

But after being told it could fall foul of Electoral Commission rules which say party funds should be used for political campaigning, the party appears to have panicked.An extraordinary apparent attempt to disguise the payment was launched.

This newspaper has been told that in early October Mr Johnson also discussed his financial woes in No10 with Lord Goldsmith.

Miss Symonds’s appointment in January as head of communications for the Aspinall Foundation, a wildlife charity, was a welcome boost to her and Mr Johnson’s income. A leaked email obtained by the Daily Mail showed that on October 23, Lord Brownlow told Mr Elliot that he had made a £58,000 ‘donation’ to Tory HQ.

He made it clear it was to cover the same sum paid by the party to the Cabinet Office.

He added the £58,000 was to be attributed to the ‘soon-to-be-formed Downing Trust’ – headed by Lord Brownlow himself. Six months later the trust is no nearer to being established.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case said this week that it could not be used to pay to refurbish either of the two Downing Street flats at numbers 10 and 11 – either now or in the future.

Bearing in mind that was its real, albeit unstated, purpose all along, insiders say the trust will now be ‘quietly dumped.’ Meanwhile, Downing Street now says the refurbishment costs ‘have been met by the Prime Minister personally’, but has not explained how Mr Johnson paid the £58,000.

It is not clear where he got the money from – nor who he has paid it to.

Miss Lytle? The Cabinet Office? Tory HQ? Lord Brownlow? The money trail is not just murky, it is dizzying. Opposition by Mr Johnson’s former chief of staff Dominic Cummings to using donors to pay for the flat was one of the reasons of his acrimonious exit from Downing Street in December.

But this newspaper has been told that when his successor, ex-banker Dan Rosenfield joined No10 in January, he was similarly shocked.

‘He couldn’t believe anyone had allowed such a crazy arrangement to go ahead in the first place – or that so much time had been spent on trying and failing to sort out the mess,’ said a source.

Former Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell said yesterday: ‘Prime ministers have to set an example and should abide by the rules which are there for a good reason. He needs to concentrate on issues like Covid and the way to do that is to abide by the rules.’

In his blistering attack last week Mr Cummings said he told Mr Johnson early last year that the funding of flat makeover was ‘unethical, foolish and possibly illegal.’

Whether you think Cummings is a genius or the devil incarnate, it is hard to disagree that Mr Johnson is guilty on at least one of the three counts. 

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Djokovic violated Australia’s highest national value – a ‘fair go’

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Every few years, a celebrity tries to test out the Australian border and in a nationalistic show of strength they are sent packing.

To the outside world it might seem from time to time that Australia chooses a celebrity to sacrifice at the altar of sovereignty. It must seem we make an example out of them, to scare everyone else off lying on their immigration forms and from smuggling forbidden, squashed fruit from the aeroplane meal into the country.

Things got a bit heated back in 2015 when Johnny Depp and Amber Heard sneaked their dogs into the island nation with a delicate ecosystem and a fondness for biosecurity. It escalated when the now deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce threatened to have the dogs put down.

Depp and Heard ended up copping a fine, complying with procedures and were made to film a video apologising to Australia in a performance as natural and warm as a hostage proof of life tape.

Depp eventually turned around and said Joyce looked like he was “inbred with a tomato”, but only after he was safely back in the US, like the notable big man he is. Deputy PM Joyce recently shot back in trademark eloquence calling Depp a “deadshit” live on national breakfast television.

Citizens of other (more boring) countries might be dismayed that their national 2ic would trade verbal blows with Captain Jack Sparrow. Not Australians though, who are taught in high school that our economy and trade could be threatened by an outbreak caused from improperly imported fauna and flora. We said “Good onya Barnaby” for applying the rules fairly and squarely, regardless of stardom.

There was broad support for his actions at the time, just as there has for the cancellation of Novak Djokovic’s visa. There has been a lot of legal wrangling involving the Balkan bad boy of tennis, who is now to be deported, but for Australians the stoush was really over one thing: did he try to get around the rules?

There’s a lot of overseas analysis around the Australian public and the political will behind pursuing the case against the tennis star. After all “Djoker” (Jock-a), as he’s known here, is one of the biggest crowd-drawing players at the Australian Open, a banner event in a country where sport is the default religion. Why not let this one slide?

It’s being said that Australians just love rules. But I think this is over simplistic. What Australians actually love is fairness. In past surveys Australians have listed “fairness” and getting a “fair go” as their highest national values. There is an expectation that it doesn’t matter who the person is, they should be treated equally. We hate special treatment, particularly when it’s a public figure appearing to bend the rules the rest of us are following.

In Ireland sometimes there is the ‘ah here, sure look, go on ahead’ approach. This can be a publican letting patrons stay for a sneaky lock in, the bus driver letting you on when you don’t have correct change, but also includes say a person keeping their high-profile job after attending a certain golf function.

Rules in Ireland are bent for people we know, just as we give jobs, rentals and sometimes vaccines to people we know, in the name of “helping out”. This is seen as a positive thing by those receiving the favour, and “nepotism” by others.

Of course, Australia also has favouritism and nepotism but we like to think we don’t. Rules equate to fairness. Everybody has to be inconvenienced equally. Someone trying to get around rules when the rest of us are stuck following rules, even if they’re ones we hate, deserves to be punished.

Covid-19 has exacerbated the situation. No one is enjoying Covid rules. “I am doing the right thing, and it’s deprived me of joy just so this utter tiprat next to me can ignore them at will” is the angry thought rattling around in our rage filled brains.

Australians have not forgotten the 40,000 or so “stranded Aussies” who remained stuck overseas thanks to strict border controls during the pandemic. Those who did not get to see dying parents or hold their own children. A multi-millionaire tennis player seemingly looking for a loophole to hit a ball about for a few weeks because he refused to be vaccinated was never going to go down well.

When Djokovic stayed at the Park Hotel, the only people who might have been happy to see him were the asylum seekers who have been held there for years by the Australian Government while they await processing. They made signs and waved to TV cameras, hoping to draw attention to the “rules” keeping them locked up without an end in sight.

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Interiors trends for 2022: It’s all about vibrant designs and natural textures

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Some home trends last the course (think sustainable design and open-plan living), while others are, thankfully, fleeting (goodbye matching furniture and round beds). 

But there are a few we can count on to stay the distance this year.

So here’s what we think will be in vogue for the next 12 months.

Jaunty: A striped armchair. Curves, spheres, lozenges and circular silhouettes reflect our current desire for a greater sense of flexibility in the way we merge work and play

Jaunty: A striped armchair. Curves, spheres, lozenges and circular silhouettes reflect our current desire for a greater sense of flexibility in the way we merge work and play

Soft shapes

Curves, spheres, lozenges and circular silhouettes reflect our current desire for a greater sense of flexibility in the way we merge work and play.

‘You can expect to see more organic shapes coming to the forefront in terms of furniture,’ says the Dining Chair Co’s Amanda Huber. 

‘Curved designs feature softer lines, creating a less strict and more informal setting.’ Check out the gracious shape of Soho Home’s Luciana sofa, £2,495.

Playful pieces

The latest interiors don’t take themselves too seriously — the idea is to elevate simple materials or use them in a creative way.

Think wide, jaunty stripes on an overscaled armchair (take a look at Buchanan Studio’s Studio chair, £2,394, for inspiration), half-length linen café curtains used as cupboard skirts, and trims, tassels, bobbles and fringing on curtains, lampshades and upholstery. 

Relaxed, unfitted kitchens also feed into this look: Buster + Punch’s latest foray into freestanding cabinetry is designed to easily adapt to lifestyle shifts.

Earthy: Bold, natural colours are set to have a resurgence in our homes next year

Earthy: Bold, natural colours are set to have a resurgence in our homes next year 

Colour confidence

More of us are experimenting with colour — whether that’s mixing bold primary tones, colour washing our walls or choosing confident finishes such as all-gloss or soft plaster. 

Warm hues and nature’s tones are set to prevail, from rich terracotta and sand to olive and deeper greens.

This calming, earthy palette suits our renewed connection to nature during the ebbs and flows of the pandemic, when ‘home’ has become a byword for sanctuary. Look out for calming and uplifting bright blues.

Handcrafted appeal

Items that feature the hand of their maker inject individuality, such as the beautifully detailed pieces of Galvin Brothers: the Bobbin Side Table, £375, or the Fluted Cabinet, £4,800, both future design classics, which take inspiration from the shape of ancient columns.

Introduce handcrafted appeal through lighting, too. Susie Atkinson’s Plato lamp bases, inspired by 1940s conical leather lamps, are coated in high gloss colours. They work well with a hand-painted or trimmed shade; Rosi de Ruig’s are a timeless option, priced from £60.

Swish: Bert & May¿s Ric Rac tile from designer Samantha Todhunter

Swish: Bert & May’s Ric Rac tile from designer Samantha Todhunter

Mindful design

Lessening our impact on the planet remains key. 

‘Sustainability is not a trend, but a key design principle,’ says Kelling Designs’ Emma Deterding. 

‘It’s about changing our mindset to embrace upcycling, reupholstering and repairing.’ 

This also translates into buying fewer but better pieces and researching provenance.

‘Seek out items made from recycled materials, such as outdoor furniture produced from recycled aluminium, upcycled fabrics or fabric leftovers for upholstery, and recycled glass for tableware and tops,’ says interior designer Claudia Ludwig.

Flexible living

With many of us required to work from home at a moment’s notice, our living spaces need to accommodate relaxing, escaping, cooking and working. So quality joinery is high priority.

‘All of my projects focus on it, from library style shelving and desks to concealed storage,’ says interior designer Louise Robinson.

‘Another trend that has become hugely popular is open-plan layouts and indoor/outdoor living, which is set to continue as we try to reclaim our homes from pandemic living,’ says Fionnuala Johnston, senior home designer at John Lewis.

Try textures

The trick is to look for less obvious ways to introduce these familiar elements. Try opting for warm oak internal doors rather than ubiquitous Crittall; lining front door surrounds and frames with richly veined marble or using tactile Zellige tiles in bathrooms and kitchens.

Check out Bert & May’s new Ric Rac collection with designer Samantha Todhunter, whose pattern is inspired by the ric rac ribbon she used to sew onto the Spanish dancing skirts she made as a child.

Global interiors

Armchair travel is on the rise as many are reluctant to take risks.

That translates to confident interiors that are embracing global design motifs, from deeply pictorial wallpaper such as Osborne & Little’s Portovenere, featuring retro Ligurian village scenes, £94 per roll, to patterned flora and fauna soft furnishings.

Charming ceramics

Spanish and Italian handmade pottery is enjoying a resurgence. See the vintage collection at The Edition 94, from £40 per plate and the range of decorative jugs, plates and dishes by traditional maker Cerámica J. Marín, available at Liberty.

Savings of the week! Winter duvets

Dunelm¿s Fogarty Soft Touch microfibre-filled duvet costs from £17.60 to £35, depending on size

Dunelm’s Fogarty Soft Touch microfibre-filled duvet costs from £17.60 to £35, depending on size

Fuel bills are set to soar. Since turning up your thermostat against winter chills will harm the wallet this year, consider a new duvet, an item on which heartwarming savings are now available,

This will also be an investment in better sleep, improving your health and mood in the morning. 

If you share your bed, a 10.5 tog rating duvet should be sufficiently cosy.

Dunelm’s Fogarty Soft Touch microfibre-filled duvet costs from £17.60 to £35, depending on size, a 20 per cent reduction. 

A kingsize costs £33.60, down from £42. For a little more, you can have the microfibre-filled Feels-Like-Down duvet from bedding store Julian Charles, which costs from £55 to £85, a 50 per cent reduction. 

The Woolroom Deluxe costs from £112.50 after a 25 per cent reduction

The Woolroom Deluxe costs from £112.50 after a 25 per cent reduction

The price of the kingsize is £75, down from £150.

Happy to splurge? Then prices for Marks & Spencer’s Luxury Siberian goosedown duvet start at £192, down 40 per cent.

Should you dream of snuggling up under a British wool-filled duvet, the Woolroom Deluxe costs from £112.50 after a 25 per cent reduction. 

The kingsize is £157.50 down from £210.

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One winner claims €19m Lotto jackpot in first ‘will be won’ draw

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After more than 60 draws over seven months the €19.06 million National Lottery jackpot was finally won tonight by one person who matched all six numbers.

The jackpot had remained capped at €19.06 million since October 2nd and had not been won since June last year. It is the biggest National Lottery jackpot win in in the State.

The jackpot numbers drawn were: 2, 9, 16, 30, 37, 40 while the bonus number was 23.

Tonight had been the first “will be won” National Lottery draw which could have seen the prize shared among those who matched five numbers and a bonus number, or, if still no winners, those who matched five numbers, in the absence of an overall winner.

However, this process was not required as one lucky person matched all six numbers.

Almost €5.5 million was shared by 149 players who matched five numbers and the bonus number.

The National Lottery said it would will reveal details on where the winning ticket was sold in the coming days.

A spokesman for the National Lottery advised everyone who played to check their tickets.

“If they are the lucky winner, we encourage them to sign the back of the ticket immediately and contact our prize claims team on 1800 666 222 or email claims@lottery.ie , and we will make arrangements for you to collect your prize.”

Earlier the Lotto app and website came under severe strain ahead of the first “will be won” jackpot draw.

Some users of the Lotto App were confronted with this message in the minutes shortly before the cut-off to buy tickets.
Some users of the Lotto App were confronted with this message in the minutes shortly before the cut-off to buy tickets.

Some players seeking to play via the Lotto app shortly before the 7.45pm cut-off were told that “due to high traffic volumes we are experiencing technical difficulties”.

The National Lottery website was also displaying a “currently unavailable” message shortly before the draw at 8pm.

Sales of tickets for tonight’s draw were reported to have been significantly higher than a standard draw.

The succession of jackpot rollovers had prompted the operator of the National Lottery, Premier Lotteries Ireland, to seek the addition of the “will be won” draw.

In future lottery jackpots will only rollover five times once the prize cap has been reached.

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