the troughers

Boris Johnson urged to justify ‘awarding public funds to close friend’
Matthew Weaver, Groan, Sep 22 2019

Johnson with Arcuri at an Innotech summit, Jul 2013. Photo: Innotech

Boris Johnson is under pressure to explain why he allegedly failed to declare an interest in the allocation of public money to a close friend while he was mayor of London. The Sunday Times reported that a company run by Jennifer Arcuri, an Pindo technology entrepreneur and friend of Johnson, was given tens of thousands of pounds in public funds and access to overseas trade missions led by Johnson during the prime minister’s time as mayor. Downing Street has refused to comment on the reports. But Labour is demanding that No 10 provide a full explanation for how the funds and favours were granted to Arcuri. Jon Trickett, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

Boris Johnson must now give a full account of his actions in response to these grave and most serious allegations of the misuse use of public money in his former role as mayor of London. The public has a right to know how and why these funds were used for the benefit of a close personal friend without on the face of it legitimate reason. This cannot be swept under the carpet. It is a matter of the integrity of the man now leading our country, who appears to believe he can get away with anything.

Arcuri’s company Innotech was given £10k in sponsorship from a mayoral organisation in 2013, the Sunday Times reports. Johnson was also the guest speaker at four of its events, it alleges. A year later Arcuri won a £15k grant under a government programme to encourage foreign entrepreneurs in the UK, the Sunday Times alleges. Despite Arcuri moving back to Pindostan last year, earlier this year her latest company Hacker House won a £100k cyber-skills grant intended to foster UK talent. The Dept for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which is responsible for the scheme, confirmed to the Guardian it was investigating how the payment was made. But it pointed out the funds were awarded to a UK-registered company. The report also suggests that Arcuri was initially refused permission to attend two of the trade mission trips because her business did not meet the eligibility criteria. But after the intervention of Johnson she was allowed on to the missions, according to an email seen by the paper. It points out that Johnson was bound by a Greater London Authority code of conduct to declare any private interests. He was also banned from providing undue benefits to friends. Arcuri, now 34, was quoted by the Sunday Times as saying:

Any grants received by my companies and any trade mission I joined were purely in respect of my role as a legitimate businesswoman.

There is precedent for members of the government being forced to resign over conflicts of interest. In 2011, then defence secretary Liam Fox resigned after he was found to have procured high-level overseas meetings for his friend and adviser Adam Werrity. In 2017, Priti Patel was forced to resign as international development secretary following a conflict of interest arising from secret meetings with the Israeli government. Patel was brought back into government in July when Johnson appointed her as home secretary.

Corbyn criticises Marr Show for not asking Raab about Boris Johnson allegations
Andrew Sparrow, Groan, Sep 22 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the BBC for not giving enough attention to newspaper allegations that Boris Johnson failed to declare potential conflicts of interest while London mayor. Referring to a story broken by the Sunday Times saying Johnson allegedly allegedly failed to declare an interest in the allocation of public money to a close friend, Corbyn said:

There was something important in one of the Sunday papers today about an alleged abuse of power and misuse of public funds by Boris Johnson before he became prime minister. But, do you know what? Lots of the media have barely touched it. Incredible, isn’t it? This is about the man who is the prime minister of our country.

Referring to his appearance on the Andrew Marr Show this morning, Corbyn said:

I was on the BBC’s flagship news programme this morning and I was asked about a range of issues. That’s fine. It’s right. It’s justified. It’s how our democracy works. But I was followed by Boris Johnson’s deputy, who was asked nothing about these allegations. This is how the establishment works. They close ranks. They put privilege first. Things have to change. Labour will put people first before privilege.

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