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Downing Street Flat Refurb Donor Pitched £115 Million Event: Report

  • A Tory peer who covered the cost of Boris Johnson’s flat refurbishment was pitching a £115m event. 
  • Brownlow proposed a Great Exhibition 2.0, described as “TED meets Davos meets Expo”, The Times reports.
  • Johnson requested Brownlow’s help with financial matters while saying he was considering the proposal.

The Conservative peer who initially paid £112,000 towards the cost of the refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat simultaneously sought his support for a £115 million project.

The event, called the Great Exhibition 2.0, centered around the Royal Albert Hall, where Lord Brownlow is a trustee.

He was caught up in last year’s so-called Wallpapergate saga, after it emerged he had given £52,000 to the Conservative Party to repay the Cabinet Office, which had originally covered the costs.

Brownlow paid a further £60,000 direct to suppliers such as the interior designer Lulu Lytle, the Electoral Commission revealed in a December 2021 report.

At the same time as Johnson was discussing the refurbishment with Brownlow, he gave the peer assurances he was looking into Brownlow’s proposal for the Great Exhibition 2.0, according to messages published subsequently.

Brownlow had provided Johnson with a 21-page proposal for the project, which would range from air taxis to how in 150 years, “we perhaps become a different more superior species altogether”, the Times reported.

It would be “Ted meets Davos meets Expo”, Brownlow said in messages to Johnson.

In one message, Johnson asks Brownlow, who he had appointed to be the chair of the Downing Street trust, if he could ask Lytle to get in touch with Brownlow for approvals of work to the flat, as parts of it “are still a bit of a tip”.

“Ps am on the great exhibition Will revert”, Johnson added.

Brownlow agreed to the plan to contact Lytle and thanked Johnson “for thinking about GE2”.

Messages between Brownlow and Johnson were referred to the Commission’s report.

Although some were later published by ethics adviser Lord Geidt, further messages and details of the proposal were released to the Times in a freedom of information request.

Ministers insisted at the time of the publication of the original messages that there was “nothing untoward” about the correspondence between Brownlow and Dowden.

However Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, accused Johnson of “corruption plain and simple”.

The Great Exhibition 2.0 was to be held in 2022, a sequel to the Victorian-era Great Exhibition of 1851. Brownlow’s proposal would see the exhibition centered around the Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park. Brownlow is a trustee at the music venue, dedicated in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.

While the project did not ultimately receive approval, Brownlow met with then-Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden in January 2021 to discuss the plan two months after his messages with Johnson about the flat refurbishment.

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is yet to respond to Insider’s freedom of information request for records between Dowden and Brownlow.

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