The Radio 4 Today host last week challenged an account by former Cabinet Minister Nadine Dorries that the wallpaper never existed, claiming it had been ‘pointed out to me’ by someone inside Downing Street.
But, in an embarrassing U-turn, Mr Robinson last night told The Mail on Sunday that he had been mistaken and the wall he was shown in the Johnsons’ former flat was actually painted red and had no wallpaper on it.
Ms Dorries will tomorrow make a formal complaint to the BBC, with Mr Robinson facing calls to set the record straight on the Today programme this week.
The bizarre dispute is the latest twist in ‘Wallpapergate’ – the furore surrounding claims that the Johnsons extravagantly redecorated the Downing Street flat with £840-a-roll gold wallpaper.
Allies of the former Prime Minister have always insisted the claim was untrue and part of a campaign to attack Carrie Johnson. In her book The Plot: The Political Assassination Of Boris Johnson, exclusively serialised in The Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail, Ms Dorries quotes a source blaming Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s former chief adviser, for planting the false story.
During an interview with Mr Robinson on the Today programme on Thursday, Ms Dorries insisted: ‘You know, Nick, there was no gold wallpaper. It doesn’t exist. It was never quoted for.’
But as he brought the interview to a close, Mr Robinson appeared to suggest he had seen the wallpaper himself. He declared: ‘Funnily enough, I’ve had that wallpaper pointed out to me by someone inside 11 Downing Street.’
Ms Dorries later took to X, formerly Twitter, to claim he admitted to her off-air that ‘he hadn’t actually seen gold wallpaper’.
The MoS understands Mr Robinson was given a tour of the Johnsons’ former flat above 11 Downing Street by its current occupant, Jeremy Hunt.
It is believed Mr Hunt pointed to a painted wall in the apartment’s dining room and joked that it was once covered in golden wallpaper.
The quip was not, however, supposed to be taken seriously.
Mr Robinson last night said: ‘I hadn’t heard about the alleged scandal about the gold wallpaper before Nadine mentioned it to me on air.
‘I was so surprised I responded by saying that ‘I’ve had that wallpaper pointed out to me by someone inside 11 Downing Street.’
‘It would have been more accurate to have said ‘I’ve had the wall on which that gold wallpaper was alleged to have hung before it was painted red pointed out to me.’ I apologise to Nadine for the distress I seem to have caused by implying that her friend Boris Johnson’s £112,000 refurbishment of the flat had involved gold as against what the designer Lulu Lyttle calls distinctive yellow wallpaper.
‘I congratulate her for fearlessly stripping back the ungilded truth which others had papered over.’
Mr Robinson’s apology was, however, dismissed by senior Tories, who called on him to correct the record on air. Former Brexit Minister David Jones said: ‘That is not an apology – it sounds like another dig at Nadine.
‘Nick Robinson should correct the record on the Today programme at his first opportunity.
That is not an apology – it sounds like another dig
‘He is the lead presenter on the most influential Radio 4 news programme. It is essential that that programme broadcasts the unvarnished truth and if mistakes are made, proper apologies should be made also.’
Former Cabinet Minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg described Mr Robinson’s comments as ‘the most elegant non-apology apology I have ever heard’.
Ms Dorries said of Mr Robinson’s wallpaper comment in their interview: ‘I thought it was utterly bizarre that he said that in the closing seconds. I had no right of reply. It was an obvious, blatant stitch-up. He is a BBC employee – he should not be doing that. He didn’t see gold wallpaper because it didn’t exist, so therefore he shouldn’t be telling the Today programme audience that he did.’
This is not the first time Mr Hunt’s attempts at humour have reignited ‘Wallpapergate’. In November 2022, in a speech at a Spectator magazine awards dinner, he joked that Liz Truss ‘painted over’ the wallpaper before moving into the flat ahead of her Premiership.
He added: ‘So I will be saying to my children: scratch over there, there’s gold in them walls.’
Supporters of Ms Truss said that she had not had time to do work on the flat.
A source close to Mr Hunt later had to clarify that his comments at the awards dinner had been a joke.
A friend of Liz Truss’s last night said: ‘Liz never saw any gold wallpaper in that flat.’