Boris Johnson’s top advisor Lord Lister quits after only two months as Gulf envoy as Downing Street lobbying row rages on
- Lord Udny-Lister, 71, is to step back from his role as special envoy for the Gulf
- It comes after stories about the peer’s previous work within the private sector
- Source told the Telegraph there was ‘no links between them and his departure’
A top aide to Boris Johnson has tonight quit after only two months in his role, amid the ongoing row over lobbying.
Lord Udny-Lister – a trusted political advisor to the Prime Minister and who worked alongside him during his time as Mayor of London – is to step back from his role as special envoy for the Gulf.
It comes after a series of stories about the 71-year-old peer’s previous work within the private sector.
These includes reports in the Mail on Sunday last week that Lord Udny-Lister owned shares in a company that has won nearly £1million in Government and NHS contracts.
A source told the Telegraph that there were ‘no links between the disclosures and Lord Lister’s departure’.
The source also told the paper that the timing of his departure was linked to Mr Johnson’s trip to India – which was cancelled due this week due to Covid.
Meanwhile, Downing Street spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The Prime Minister is hugely grateful for Lord Lister’s dedicated service over many years.
Lord Udny-Lister – a trusted political advisor to the Prime Minister and who worked alongside him during his time as Mayor of London – is to step back from his role as special envoy for the Gulf
Boris Johnson is shamed into paying £58,000 bill for the Downing Street refurbishment himself after the Tory Party settled it then tried to disguise the truth
Boris Johnson has been shamed into paying for the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat after the Daily Mail exposed how the Tory Party settled the bill – and then tried to disguise the truth.
The Mail first revealed in February that the Prime Minister had asked Tory donors to contribute to the cost of redecorating, amid fears that spending ordered by his fiancee Carrie Symonds was ‘out of control’.
His bid to sweep the scandal under the plush carpet collapsed on Wednesday, when the Mail published damning emails sent to party chairman Ben Elliot, a nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall.
In one, sent in October, Tory donor Lord Brownlow said he had given £58,000 to cover payments ‘the party has already made’. Lord Brownlow added that the donation should be attributed to the ‘soon to be formed Downing Street Trust’.
A second email showed that the multimillionaire, an ex-policeman turned entrepreneur, had been asked to run the trust by Mr Johnson personally last June.
The proposed trust was purportedly intended to preserve the entire Downing Street estate, but it did not exist at the time of the donation – and still doesn’t.
Critics claim the idea was a ruse to recoup money spent on the Number 11 flat. Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds live there as it is larger than the space above No 10.
Miss Symonds was reportedly eager to get rid of the ‘John Lewis furniture nightmare’ inherited from Theresa May.
This led her to commission the modish – and expensive – eco-friendly interior designer Lulu Lytle, whose work includes rattan furniture, gold wallpaper and wrought-iron finishings.
Admirers of her decor include Prince Charles, who visited her Leicester workshop last year.
Multiple sources at senior levels of the Government and Conservative Party have expressed outraged that Mr Johnson, 56, and Miss Symonds, 33, not only refused to pay for their revamp, but also wanted Tory donors to bail them out.
The Government appeared to try to bury Mr Johnson’s climbdown yesterday by having it announced in the House of Lords by Cabinet Office minister Lord True.
He said the cost of work on ‘painting, sanding and floorboards’ in the flat would be met by the taxpayer, but ‘any costs of wider refurbishment in this year have been met by the Prime Minister personally’.
Those sixteen words are likely to have cost Mr Johnson around £58,000.
The Government did not say how much he paid, or when. Lord True said the Government had been ‘considering the merits’ of setting up a trust for future refurbishments, but the ‘legally complex’ plans remain ‘ongoing’.
Despite his £161,000-a-year salary, Mr Johnson’s friends claim he has struggled to make ends meet since entering Downing Street. Confirmed to have at least six children, he has been through an expensive second divorce.
‘He has been an outstanding servant to the country, to the Government and to the Prime Minister when he was mayor of London.’
A key Johnson ally, Lord Udny-Lister was only revealed as the Government’s special envoy for the Gulf in February.
It was reported at the time that the role will focus on strengthening links with the region, as well as driving investment to the UK.
Speaking at the time of his appointment, Mr Johnson said: ‘The Gulf is a pivotal region both economically and geopolitically. I’m very pleased to be sending Lord Udny-Lister to work with our partners there and to unlock its potential.
‘His appointment marks my ambition to achieve a wholescale modernisation of our Gulf relationships, creating jobs and driving prosperity at home while delivering on our priorities and values overseas.’
Lord Udny-Lister had been acting chief of staff in No 10 until former Treasury official Dan Rosenfield relieved him of the role.
Last month reports emerged that the peer held talks over taking a six-figure second job with a lobbying firm with interests in the Gulf.
Lord Udny-Lister held discussions with Finsbury Glover Hering over combining his governmental role with a private one.
He rejected the offer from Finsbury earlier this month after being approached by the Times, the newspaper reported at the time.
The paper reported the firm as saying Lord Udny-Lister’s role would not have involved Middle Eastern clients.
The report came after the peer was caught up in a conflict of interest row over claims he helped broker a deal for China’s new embassy on behalf of the Government while being paid by two of the companies involved.
The Sunday Times reported that Lord Udny-Lister helped the Foreign Office lead talks with China over its £255million deal to buy Royal Mint Court – near to the Tower of London.
But while working on the talks, which took place between 2017 and 2018, the-then Sir Edward Lister also worked for two of the companies involved in the deal, according to the paper.
He worked as a paid consultant for American commercial real estate giant CBRE.
The company was hired by China to identify and buy a site for its new embassy.
He was also a paid adviser to London property firm Delancey, who owned the Royal Mint Court, while the talks were in place, according to the Sunday Times.
Both companies told Sunday Times that Lord Udny-Lister took no direct part in the negotiations.
A spokesperson for CBRE told MailOnline earlier this year: ‘Sir Edward Lister did not have any involvement with CBRE on the Royal Mint Court transaction.
‘He was employed as consultant with CBRE between October 2016 and December 2017.’
A Government spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Sir Eddie Lister undertook this work as a Non-Executive Director of the FCO at the request of the government. There was no conflict of interest.’
Delancey bought the site from the Crown Estate – company behind the Queen’s public estate – for £51million in 2010.
The historic building, which is opposite the Tower of London, was home to the former Royal Mint.
The building was bought by the Chinese government for £250 million in 2018.
It is now planned to be the new home of the Chinese Embassy and is set to be one of the biggest in the world.
Last week the Mail on Sunday revealed how the Tory peer had more than £50,000 worth of shares in Johnson Controls, a US-based engineering firm whose UK branch has secured six public contracts since Lister joined the No 10 team as Chief Strategic Adviser.
Lord Udny-Lister helped the Foreign Office lead talks with China over its £255million deal to buy Royal Mint Court – near to the Tower of London. Here he is pictured with Chinese ambassador Liu Xiamoing
The historic Royal Mint court building, which is opposite the Tower of London, was home to the former Royal Mint and will be transformed into the new Chinese Embassy
Four years ago, Johnson Controls merged with Tyco, where Lister worked for more than a decade as ‘director of government relations’ before Mr Johnson brought him to City Hall and then Downing Street.
Last week the Mail on Sunday revealed how Lord Udny-Lister had more than £50,000 worth of shares in Johnson Controls, a US-based engineering firm whose UK branch has secured six public contracts since Lister joined the No 10 team as Chief Strategic Adviser
A total of £998,000 worth of contracts have gone to the company in the almost two years since Lister became the PM’s adviser – the latest was awarded this month.
They include work for a Birmingham Children’s NHS hospital, the NHS-owned North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative, HM Land Registry and South Tees Site Company Limited.
The biggest contract – £521,000 for fire alarm systems – was awarded in January 2020 to Johnson Controls through an arrangement with the Cabinet Office.
Last week a Government spokesman insisted Lister had ‘no involvement’ in awarding the contracts.
Last year, Lord Udny-Lister was also accused of a possible conflict of interest over a payment of nearly £500,000 from a luxury property developer while working for a government affordable housing body.
He received the six-figure payment from Malaysian property developer EcoWorld between 2016 and 2019.
But at the time he was also Chairman of Homes England – a government body that funds affordable housing projects.
The consultancy fees paid to Sir Edward totalled £487,000.
This far exceeded his annual salary of £68,000 which he received while working for Homes England.
MailOnline has contacted Lord Udny-Lister for comment about his departure.
by Isabel Ringrose and Simon Basketter
Behind the rows between the Tories, there’s very real evidence that being friends with the government is good for business.
Texts published by the BBC showed that Boris Johnson personally assured billionaire Sir James Dyson that he would “fix” a tax issue. This meant Dyson’s employees would not have to pay extra tax if they came to Britain during the pandemic.As a result the government has launched an internal inquiry into how this message was leaked.
But Johnson then responded by claiming “if you think that there’s anything remotely dodgy, or rum, or weird or sleazy” about the deal “you’re out of your mind”.
And it was “completely the right thing to do”.
The Labour Party has accused Johnson of being personally involved in “sleaze” after texts were leaked by his former aide Dominic Cummings.
Labour has called for an urgent investigation into the prime minister’s conduct by the Liaison Committee of senior MPs. Yet the head of the committee Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin said ministers should not be “locked away in ivory towers”.
He added people should not be unable to contact them and should be able to carry out conversations in private.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s special envoy to the Gulf quit last week, after two months in the job. Lord Udny-Lister is the prime minister’s longest‑standing aide.
As Johnson’s deputy London mayor and as mere “Sir” Edward Lister between 2011 and 2016, he helped to approve £4 billion of property schemes for developers he went on to work for.
In 2018, he brokered China’s deal to buy the Royal Mint site in London in his capacity as a non‑executive director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), then run by Johnson. At the time, he was paid by two other firms connected to the deal. One was the property consultancy advising China and buying the site on its behalf.
The other was Delancey, the property company run by Jamie Ritblat, a Tory donor, who owned the site.
Last year, at the height of the pandemic, Udny-Lister invited Ritblat to advise him on strategy in the construction sector.
Minutes of a meeting in which Delancey’s commercial interests were discussed state that Udny-Lister had “previously undertaken advisory work” for the company.
In fact, he was paid by the company and remains on its payroll, according to the House of Lords register of interests.
Udny-Lister, known in Conservative circles as “Steady Eddie”, has retired to spend more time with his money.
While at the FCO, Udny-Lister was the director of a company aiming to build the “next Dubai” in Libya.
The disclosure casts light on Johnson’s remark that a group of “wonderful guys” from Britain planned to turn Sirte, the Libyan coastal city, into the “next Dubai”.
And that the only thing they needed to do was “clear the dead bodies away and then they’ll be there”.
Thousands spent ‘renovating’ flat while millions are overcrowded
Boris Johnson has renovated his flat in Number 11 Downing Street at reported costs of up to £200,000 that could land both him and his party in legal trouble.
Prime ministers get up to £30,000 a year of public money to pay for housing maintenance.
But Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings alleged he planned to have donors “secretly pay” for the work on his flat.
Johnson lives in a four‑bedroom flat with his fiancee and son—despite those on benefits having their payments slashed if they have “extra” bedrooms.
Posho magazine Tatler reported that work was completed in early March to turn the flat from former prime minister Theresa May’s “John Lewis furniture nightmare” into a “high society haven”.
Downing Street spokespersons gave assurances Johnson has done nothing wrong. They said he had “acted in accordance with the appropriate codes of conduct and electoral law’ throughout.
Last Friday Cabinet Office Minister Lord True said, “Any costs of wider refurbishment in this year have been met by the prime minister personally.”
But reports say, despite Johnson’s £150,000 salary, the Conservative Party received a £58,000 donation for the flat.
Tory peer Lord Brownlow donated the whole amount last year “to cover the payments the party has already made on behalf of the soon to be formed ‘Downing Street Trust’—of which I have been made chairman”.
The trust, which Johnson was trying to set up, should be registered with the Electoral Commission.
And political parties have to report donations and loans to the commission if they surpass £7,500. MPs must also declare any donations to the Commons Register of Members’ Financial Interests within at least 28 days.
Cummings said this was “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended”.
He added, “I would be happy to tell the cabinet secretary or Electoral Commission what I know concerning this matter.”
The Electoral Commission is now establishing if the donations are within its remit to investigate.
Whether the commission launches a formal investigation or not, Cummings’ planned appearance to a parliamentary select committee next month may provide more details.
The prime minister living in scandalous luxury as 23 million households are classed as overcrowded—proving deadly in the pandemic—shows it’s one rule for them, another for us.
Labour’s feeble response fails to trouble the Tories
The Labour Party’s response to the slew of corruption scandals and revelations has failed to trouble either Boris Johnson or the Tories.
With just over a week before elections in England, Scotland and Wales, the Tories are sitting comfortably ahead of Labour in the polls. This is despite more than a year of catastrophe and scandal.
Right wing Labour MPs are frustrated that Starmer has not made Labour more popular than it was under left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn. Some have even gone as far as to criticise Starmer for refusing to challenge the Tories.
Now Starmer and his leading MPs have accused the government of being mired in “Tory sleaze”. Starmer even suggested that it could a “sackable offence” for a minister not to declare meetings with bosses.
It seemed to be a shift from the days when Starmer refused to call for Tory minister Robert Jenrick to be sacked for apparently granting favours to billionaire Richard Desmond.
Yet instead of blasting the Tories for helping bosses profit from the pandemic, Labour criticised them for not doing it “responsibly”.
Rather than fuelling the anger at the Tories, Labour called for several inquiries and appearances in parliament “so the stench can be dispelled”.
In an interview on Monday, Labour shadow minister Kate Green said there needed to be more inquiries to make sure bosses could lobby the government with “transparency” and “accountability”.
But this has done nothing to inspire the ordinary people Labour hopes will vote for it in elections.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner was asked on Sunday why Labour was doing poorly in the polls. She replied, “The most important thing I have to say about Labour is many people are starting to realise that Labour has changed.”
Starmer’s Labour is desperate to prove that it can be a “responsible” government. And this means refusing to do anything that could threaten the interests of big business—even as it faces disaster in elections.
Cummings and Tories’ war
Many of the leaks about Boris Johnson’s corruption and failures apparently come from his former top adviser Dominic Cummings.
Cummings is reportedly preparing to blame Johnson for the government’s disastrous handling of the pandemic when he appears at a hearing in front of MPs next month.
He is set to claim that he advised Johnson to impose lockdown restrictions sooner, but that he was ignored.
Cummings has also said that Johnson had fallen “far below” levels of “competence” and that, “urgent parliamentary inquiry into the government’s conduct over the Covid crisis” is needed.
An “ally” of Cummings told the right wing Times newspaper, “He was pushing the prime minister hard to lock down sooner in the autumn and he has lots of evidence that shows that his decision to delay led to devastating consequences.”
In fact, Cummings is also said to have been an early supporter of the “herd immunity” strategy—letting the virus run rampant so that businesses could stay open.
His approach in February last year was reportedly, “herd immunity, protect the economy, and if that means some pensioners die, too bad”.
Cummings now denies this.
But for months he was at the top of a government that repeatedly put profit ahead of ordinary people’s lives.
None of the warring Tories can be trusted.
“DOUBLE LIFE OF JOHNSON’S ALLY RAISES AWKWARD CONFLICT OF INTEREST QUESTIONS” – FINANCIAL TIMES – APRIL 30 2021