The 'flatgate scandal' tells me our PMs don't get paid enough - Christa Ackroyd

I agree there are questions to be answered in the Flatgate ‘scandal’ dominating the headlines this week.

Should the Prime Minister get paid more? (PA wire).

But above all, there is one which springs to my largely practical mind. Who on earth would spend £800 on a roll of wallpaper and £9,000 on a sofa when they were either expecting or planning a child together? And secondly, is it scrubbable? Because it will need to be.

Quick, hide the paints, crayons and the jam sandwiches. Wilfred Johnson is a one year old about to start causing havoc. That is on top of the havoc that the cost of decor has already created in the corridors of power.

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With the best will in the world I don’t expect the Prime Minister’s son will be different from any other toddler. So it might all look immaculate now... but just you wait till Wilf has had a hand in the decoration.

Then I expect the Prime Minister’s fiancé may just wish she’d opted for the easy-clean, easily touched up, painted option available at any local DIY store at a fraction of the price, just as the last-but-one incumbents, the Camerons, did.

Trust me, SamCam likes posh. She was creative director for Smythson’s (purveyors of fine leather) at the time and that’s posh. But when it came to their Downing Street accommodation, wipeable and hard wearing were the order of the day. Because children will be children. And no fancy pants wallpaper will stop that. Unless you want to spend your life constantly on the verge of having a nervous breakdown.

There isn’t a parent, or grandparent, reading this that hasn’t had a wall scribbled on, or a sofa jumped upon by excitable toddlers, or not moved expensive treasures to the top shelf out of reach of little hands and enquiring minds.

That is unless, of course, children are to be banned from the best room, as my mum used to call it. But then best rooms are not for family homes. They are for show apartments. Which is exactly what this expensive refurb sounds to me. For show.

But I get it. I really do. No woman wants to inherit another woman’s decorations, although to describe Theresa May’s as ‘a John Lewis nightmare’ was pure snobbery and lacking in class. I understand Carrie wanted to make her own mark.

But when you’ve been together a long time you come to understand that even if you are the Prime Minister’s partner it’s best not to spend what you haven’t got if you want to avoid an argument. Especially on a flat that comes with what can be described as an extremely insecure tenancy agreement.

I can imagine what happened. While Boris got on with the looming crisis of governing a country in a pandemic (and recovering himself), Carrie was nesting. And he probably left her to it.

Does he look like a man who spends hours browsing Homes and Gardens choosing the look for his new abode, even an abode he fought tooth and nail to call his own? Does he look like a man who would pour over swatches of blousy wallpapers and busy patterned sofas? Definitely not.

Boris Johnson is a man who can’t even be bothered to comb his hair. He is hardly what my gran would call “a fashion plate”.

And I suspect his style of home would be something similar, rather crumpled and a little untidy. In fact, I expect like many other partners, including my own, he probably took no interest whatsoever in the revamp... until the bills came in. Then the words “How much!” peppered with more than a few expletives echoed through the four-bedroom flat after another long day at the office.

There are valuable lessons to be learned here. Firstly keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. When Carrie Symonds finally won the well-documented war with former adviser Dominic Cummings, it was never going to end well when he was sent packing.

His carefully timed missive was designed to create chaos and division when at last the Prime Minister seemed to be on top of the Covid crisis with an exceptional roll-out of the vaccination programme.

But do I think it’s a fuss about nothing? No, it’s a fuss about style over substance. But I will say this. The prime minister of this country earns around £160,000 a year.

That is less than many footballers earn in a week, four times less than the Governor of the Bank of England, around three times less than the Governor of the BBC and less than at least two chief executives of local councils in Yorkshire.

Boris Johnson used to earn half a million pounds a year and more with his books, lectures and newspaper columns. But he doesn’t now. I happen to think, even if you believe this one should be paid in washers, we don’t pay our prime ministers enough. And after this year I suspect many of us would agree we wouldn’t want the job for all the tea in China.

But the simple truth is Boris Johnson doesn’t earn enough to pay what some are saying is more than a year’s wage to do up what amounts to a temporary flat above the office. And that, I suspect, is what has caused the problems regarding who lent this, or who helped with what.

But we are talking about wallpaper and some soft furnishings for heaven’s sake, not the precarious future of the country and I know where I want his priorities to be.

No doubt this will eventually fade quicker than a pair of expensive curtains. Until then here is my advice for his fiancé based on a good old Yorkshire truism.

In future Carrie, perhaps it would be more prudent to cut your coat according to your cloth. Because whatever fancy decor your home now has, it will never be worth all the angst it has caused in its choosing.

Especially when Wilf gets his sticky little fingers on it.