Boris Johnson's troubles grow as UK government battles sleaze claims

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LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing mounting pressure over the way he operates at the top of the government, as the row over allegations of sleaze and incompetence intensifies.

The UK leader denied a claim that he’d said privately he would rather see “bodies pile high” than order a third pandemic lockdown.

But the BBC, ITV, and the Daily Mail all carried versions of the same story stating that he had.

Tuesday’s British newspapers contained further reports on similar themes, with The Times suggesting the premier would rather let Covid “rip” than close the economy again.

In another difficult 24 hours for the British leader: The government’s most senior civil servant announced a review of how the refit of Mr Johnson’s official Downing Street apartment was paid for.

Separately, ITV reported that the Conservative Party had loaned Mr Johnson the funds to refurbish his residence, which he then paid back.

It would be a highly unusual arrangement that, if confirmed, is likely to lead to more criticism of the Premier’s judgment.

Top government officials questioned why Greensill Capital founder Lex Greensill was given such sweeping access at the heart of former prime minister David Cameron’s administration.

Elections

For Mr Johnson, the stakes are getting higher.

The UK holds elections in London, Scotland and other key battlegrounds on May 6 and a steady flow of headlines about government sleaze and cronyism could sway voters away from his Conservative Party.

For now, Mr Johnson’s Tories remain ahead in opinion polls and are riding a wave of public support from the successful roll-out of Covid vaccines.

The catalyst for the latest burst of allegations was a 1,000-word blog post on Friday (April 27) by Mr Johnson’s former senior adviser, Mr Dominic Cummings, who attacked the Premier’s integrity and competence.

Mr Johnson and his ministers have been fending off questions from the media and lawmakers about Mr Cummings’s comments ever since.

On Monday, the UK’s most senior civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry looking into