Boris Johnson “can’t be expected to live in a skip” and prime ministers should get a “one-off payment” to refurbish their Downing Street accommodation, Sarah Vine has said.
Vine, the Daily Mail columnist who is married to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, said it would mean her husband would not again have to be dragged to parliament to answer questions about “curtains”.
No.10 has not denied the prime minister received a loan from the Conservative Party to cover the initial costs, before repaying the party.
Prime ministers are allocated a taxpayer-funded budget of up to £30,000 a year to renovate the home – which is more than the median UK household income after tax.
But it has been reported Johnson has spent up to £200,000 on the changes.
Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former top adviser who quit his post last year, has said the PM wanted Tory donors to “secretly pay” for the work in an “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal” move.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Vine said: “The thing about the whole No.10 refurbishment thing is that the prime minister can’t be expected to live in a skip.
“He has to live to a certain standard and the problem with all of these political things like this is that no one is ever prepared to bite the bullet.”
She added: “If he wants to have a pink sofa instead of a green sofa, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable thing for him to want.”
Vine said she did not think the taxpayer should fund the work, but that a “transparent” arrangement for refurbishment was the way forward.
She said when there’s a new PM it would be better for there to be “a one-off payment that enables you to change the curtains, I think that would be very clear and very simple”.
Vine adde this would mean “my husband wouldn’t have to cancel all his very important NHS procurement meetings on an afternoon to go and answer an urgent question about curtains”.
Gove, in his Cabinet Office role, faced questions from MPs on Monday about who paid for the renovation.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Tory Party co-chair Amanda Milling needed to “come clean” about whether party funds had been used.
“No more cover-ups, no more prevarication,” she said. “Tell us who paid for the prime minister’s flat, and release all correspondence on this matter between the Conservative Party, Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.”