politics

Sarah Vine defends No10 refurbs saying it 'stank of fags with Trainspotting loo'


Downing Street had a toilet that resembled the one in Trainspotting and a room that still “stank of fags” from the 1980s, a key ally of the Tories has claimed.

Sarah Vine today insisted headaches over a No10 makeover were “nothing new” after Boris Johnson was criticised for a lavish redecoration by his fiancee Carrie Symonds.

The Prime Minister is reportedly trying to set up a charity after being told taxpayers cannot contribute more than £30,000 for the works – said to be worth as much as £100,000.

That has led to warnings of a “potential conflict of interest” if Tory cronies funnel money into his living arrangements through a heritage charity.

But Ms Vine, columnist, wife of Cabinet minister Michael Gove and friend of David Cameron’s wife Samantha, said the budget for covering the Grade I and II listed building’s upkeep was “not nearly enough”.



Trainspotting's toilet scene with Ewan McGregor
Trainspotting’s toilet scene with Ewan McGregor

She said the budget was around £20,000 a year when Mr Cameron became PM and his wife embarked on a major refurbishment, including a new kitchen in their 11 Downing Street flat.

Ms Vine wrote in the Daily Mail: “When my old friend Samantha Cameron moved into the same flat in 2010, she was criticised for making it too modern.

“In reality, she rescued it from a nightmare of stained beige carpets, hideous built-in furniture and a downstairs loo that reminded me of the one in Trainspotting.

“The No10 flat, meanwhile, still had one room that stank of fags (with matching tobacco-stained ceiling) from Denis Thatcher’s days.”



Samantha Cameron in the revamped No11 flat in 2011 with then-First Lady Michelle Obama
Samantha Cameron in the revamped No11 flat in 2011 with then-First Lady Michelle Obama

Danny Boyle’s 1996 film Trainspotting includes a grim scene where star Ewan McGregor dives into the “worst toilet in Scotland” after losing his opium suppositories.

She added: “Part of the problem was the fact Samantha was obliged to use ‘by appointment’ government contractors, who charged an entirely unjustifiable mark-up. In the end she paid for the works herself.”

The Mail reported the PM has asked Tory peer Lord Brownlow to set up a charity, which would also maintain Downing Street’s state rooms, similar to the White House Endowment Fund which dished out $2m in 2017/18.

That has raised fears Tory donors or allies could funnel money to the PM’s living arrangement through a charity.

Labour MP Sarah Owen wrote to the Prime Minister saying: “This latest case raises more issues in relation to this government’s mishandling of public money.”



Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) with his partner Carrie Symonds
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) with his partner Carrie Symonds

Her letter asked if it is “appropriate” to lavish money on the flat as millions are left without Covid support, adding: “Can you foresee any potential conflicts of interests with you personally taking direct payments from Conservative Party donors?”

Ms Owen went on: “The waste, cronyism and sleaze surrounding your government’s mishandling of government contracts during the Covid pandemic sends a very clear message to the public that you and your government do not take propriety and ethics seriously.”

Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds, the Tories’ former PR chief who now runs communications for the Aspinall Foundation animal charity, moved into the flat in July 2019.

At the time a No10 spokeswoman said there would not be “any additional cost to the taxpayer” of Ms Symonds living there.

But the PM’s Press Secretary Allegra Stratton yesterday admitted “I don’t know” if that promise was still true.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The Downing Street complex is a working building, as well as containing two ministerial residences.

“As has been the case under successive administrations, refurbishments and maintenance are made periodically.

“Matters concerning works on the Downing Street estate, including the residences, are covered in the Cabinet Office annual report and accounts.”





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