Boris Johnson acts with “honesty and integrity”, his Press Secretary declared today, after he was accused of having sex with Jennifer Arcuri on his family sofa while his wife was away.
Allegra Stratton mounted an extraordinary defence of the Prime Minister while not denying Ms Arcuri’s lurid claims they had a four-year sexual relationship when he was London mayor.
The No10 Press Secretary instead insisted Mr Johnson “followed all the legal requirements” when Ms Arcuri attended trade delegations and won public money for her tech work.
And she said there was “no case to answer” on allegations that Ms Arcuri won any favourable access or treatment from a public office.
Ms Arcuri today told the Mirror she read Shakespeare with Mr Johnson before they had sex on the sofa in his £3.35million Grade II-listed townhouse, which he shared with now-ex-wife Marina Wheeler.
She also claims the PM – who has never denied a sexual relationship – had sex with her at her London flat, hours before attending the London Paralympics opening ceremony with his wife and Princess Anne.
Today Ms Stratton did not address the relationship directly, but insisted the Prime Minister had not broken the law.
She refused to retract his claim that there was “no interest to declare”. She also refused to say if he will fully comply with a London Assembly probe into whether he broke ethics rules – or give evidence in person.
And she claimed nine times that the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found allegations of impropriety were “untrue and unfounded”.
She said this despite the IOPC not appearing to include those words anywhere in its report, which only looked at whether the PM should face a criminal investigation – not whether he broke non-criminal ethics rules.
Indeed, the IOPC found there was “some evidence” he and Ms Arcuri “may have been in an intimate relationship” and if they were, “it would have been wise for him to have declared this as a conflict of interest. A failure to do so could have constituted a breach of the broader Nolan principles contained within the GLA 2012 Code of Conduct.”
Here is the full exchange with journalists for the record.
Full transcript of the exchange with No10
JOURNALISTS: Does the Prime Minister believe he abided by the Nolan principles on public office during his time as London mayor in his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri?
NO10 PRESS SECRETARY ALLEGRA STRATTON: “Yes, the then mayor and now the Prime Minister Boris Johnson does believe he followed all the legal requirements. And indeed the Independent Office for Police Conduct when they looked into this matter found that to be the case.”
Will he fully comply with the London Assembly’s investigation into whether he broke the Nolan principles?
“This has already been looked at. The Prime Minister will engage, but this has already been looked at in detail by no less an authority than the IOPC and it found these claims were untrue and unfounded. This has been looked at in depth and there was found to be no case to answer.”
That investigation found the law hadn’t been broken. This separate investigation is looking into whether the Nolan principles were broken. So will the Prime Minister co-operate with that investigation?
“Of course, the Prime Minister follows the Nolan principles when conducting himself in public life.”
He said in 2019 he had ‘no interest to declare’ in relation to this. Would he retract that statement now?
“The Prime Minister was backed up in that assertion by the IOPC – it found claims of impropriety in office were untrue and unfounded.
“This has been looked into and the claims were found to be untrue and unfounded.
“If this had not been looked into at all, then these questions would be pertinent but they have been looked into. It has been looked into in depth by an independent office and it has been found to be untrue and unfounded.”
Would the PM give evidence in person to the Assembly’s Oversight Committee?
“I’m not going to get into these hypotheticals – a sentence you will love hearing I know. As I say, this has been looked at already by an independent authority. It wasn’t allied to any particular party, it was independent, it looked at it and he found there were no claims to answer.”
Are you suggesting this London Assembly inquiry is politically motivated?
“I’m just pointing out that an independent body has looked at this, they looked at it in depth, and they found there was no case to answer. This work has been done, public time, money and effort has been spent looking into whether or not there’s any wrongdoing and it was found that the Prime Minister, the then London mayor, has no case to answer.
“The work has been done, the inquiry has happened, and the Prime Minister has been found with no case to answer.”
The IOPC was into the legal aspect, not the wider matter of whether the Nolan principles were broken. When you say you will engage with the investigation what exactly does that mean? Will he appear in person or submit written evidence?
“Let’s cross all of those bridges when they come. For the time being we only have in front of us the IOPC report. That’s a piece of work that’s been done. It found there was no case to answer.
“I think it’s to be respected. We respect it. Others do. And its finding was that there was no case – let me use the exact language, ‘claims of impropriety in office were untrue and unfounded’.”
That’s a bit different from saying there was no case to answer, isn’t it? The previous inquiry said the PM would have been wise to declare an interest but it was in the GLA’s remit. So the issue of breaking the Nolan principles is something that’s in the Assembly’s interest – that aspect hasn’t been cleared up.
“It’s up to the Assembly to do what they feel is right and we respect their opinion but in terms of the report that’s been done, it found the claims were untrue and unfounded.
“I have to stick to their language – untrue and unfounded. The Prime Minister does follow the Nolan principles when conducting himself in public life.”
But the IOPC conclusion said the broader principles, the Nolan principles, were a matter for the GLA to look at which it’s now doing. Will he co-operate with the investigation?
“Let’s wait – it’s up to the Assembly to do what they see fit. I do think the Prime Minister is right now spending all the time he can on promoting vaccine uptake, ensuring a vaccine supply and so on. I think all your readers will be pleased that that is what is dominating his working capacity at the moment. It is up to the Assembly what they want to do. All I can point you to is the conclusion of a report that has already concluded – accusations of impropriety were untrue and unfounded. Second to that is that the Prime Minister does conduct himself in accordance with the Nolan principles.”
Does be believe he behaved with ‘honesty and integrity’?
Does he believe Jennifer Arcuri was given preferential treatment in any way?
“I’m not going to comment on the particular… this has been looked at by the IOPC. They have looked at it, they have found there was no impropriety and I’m not going to say any more than that.
“Because they’ve done the work looking into it better, frankly, than I would do talking to you now.”
Does he accept there was a potential conflict of interest and he should have declared the relationship?
“I’m going to point you back to the IOPC – it found no evidence to indicate that Mr Johnson influenced the payment of any sponsorship moneys to Ms Arcuri, or that he influenced or played any active part in securing her participation in trade missions and so on and so forth.
“This independent group has looked into this case and it has found no evidence of impropriety, okay? So this isn’t the Prime Minister’s saying this, it is an independent body saying it. All I can do, just like all you can do, is look at an independent body that’s done the work and come to a conclusion.”
But this independent body looked at the legality of the conduct – does the PM think all that’s important is you observe the law on these things, and that wider principles of conduct in public office don’t matter?
“That’s not what I’ve said. I’ve said he does believe in the wider principles of integrity and honesty. He acts with integrity and is honest. And I’ve said that he follows the Nolan principles when conducting himself in public life, so that’s on that. On the particular allegations, the more technical or legal, that has been looked at by an independent body. I don’t think we can get better than that, they looked at it and came to the conclusion that claims of impropriety in office were untrue and unfounded. That is the view of an independent body, not of me, not of you, and not of anyone else.”
The words untrue and unfounded didn’t appear in that report. Are those your words? Are you paraphrasing?
“Um, forgive me, I’ll have to find the exact conclusion they reached, but let me give you – ‘we found no evidence to indicate Mr Johnson influenced the payment of any sponsorship monies to Ms Arcuri or that he influenced or played an active part in securing her participation in trade missions’. That is their language, okay? That’s not me, that’s their language.”