Carrie Johnson says she is the target of Prime Minister’s enemies
A defiant Carrie Johnson believes the prime minister’s enemies are targeting her in a ‘brutal information campaign’, while insisting she has no influence over government affairs.
On Sunday evening, the Prime Minister’s wife made a rare statement through her spokesperson in response to a Cabinet minister suggesting she was ‘under surveillance in a way that the wives of other Prime Ministers perhaps were not” in the past.
Ms Johnson’s role in her husband Boris’s premiership has been in the spotlight, and over the weekend a biography of the 33-year-old mother-of-two by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft emerged serialized in the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday, which sought to examine his alleged influence on the Prime Minister’s decision-making.
Lord Ashcroft, writing in the Mail, said his research had suggested his ‘behaviour prevents him (Boris Johnson) from running Britain as effectively as the voters deserve’.
But allies dismissed the criticism as sexist, and a spokesperson for Ms Johnson said on Sunday: ‘Once again Ms Johnson has been targeted in a brutal information campaign against her by enemies of her husband.
“This is just the latest attempt by bitter ex-officials to discredit her.
“He is a private person who plays no role in government.”
It has been alleged that Ms Johnson has been caught up in a number of scandals involving the Prime Minister, including suggestions she pushed for the luxury redecoration of the flat the couple share at 11 Downing Street and played a key role in the evacuation of animals from the Nowzad charity in Kabul.
Number 10 denied that Mr and Mrs Johnson were involved in the evacuation.
But Guto Harri, Downing Street’s new communications director, speaking on the BBC Newscast podcast last week, said the episode “raises that other specter that never goes away from who influences him (the PM) and we all know who is accused of doing it on this occasion, because she is more of an animal lover than he really is.”
Asked if he was referring to Ms Johnson, he replied: ‘You said it, not me.
Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s former senior aide, made it clear he was not a fan of Ms Johnson and said she had wanted to ‘get rid of’ him from No 10.
He alleged that at one point she was “trying to change a whole bunch of different dates to number 10 and appointing her friends to particular jobs”.
However, after her allies dubbed Ms Johnson ‘Princess Nut Nut’ during press briefings, David Cameron’s wife Samantha said the attacks were ‘sexist’.
She said: “In my opinion, your husband or your partner is the prime minister, they are quite capable of making decisions themselves, they have a huge team of advisers.
“And so the idea that it’s the woman, that you somehow influence them beyond what they think or the advice they get from their team, I think that’s It’s a bit humiliating, really, for the prime minister.”
This was echoed by Mr Kwarteng on Sunday, when he told Times Radio: ‘The report that she somehow has undue influence, I don’t think that’s true, the Prime Minister has been in politics for 25 years old and has a pretty solid set of ideas.
But when asked if there was an element of sexism in the treatment of Ms Johnson compared to spouses of former prime ministers, Mr Kwarteng replied: ‘I wouldn’t say that, but I think it It’s interesting when the spouse is someone in their thirties and has well-known vacancies, people feel free to criticize – I think that’s interesting.
Pressed on what he meant by “interesting”, the minister replied: “I don’t think it’s sexist, I’m not going to say it’s sexist, but I’m saying that his point of view is examined in a way that perhaps the wives of other prime ministers were not.
Journalist Sarah Vine, whose divorce from Leveling Up secretary Michael Gove was finalized last month after 20 years of marriage, said the focus on Ms Johnson was “the equivalent of political bitch shaming “.
She told the BBC’s Sunday Morning: “The problem is that it’s always the easiest thing to do to blame the woman and the truth is much more complicated than that.
“If Boris Johnson gave Carrie too much access or too much leeway, it’s sort of his fault. He’s in charge. He’s the prime minister.”
She added: “I know the nickname Carrie Antoinette is witty and a good pun and we all love a good pun but I just don’t think her head deserves to be on the block that way.
“Things went wrong and mistakes, terrible mistakes, were made… all the party stuff and I agree that this is all completely unacceptable, but it’s not just her who has to take responsibility for it . At the end of the day, I think it’s Johnson and the way he runs number 10.”
Ms Vine said in her own experience it was ‘incredibly damaging and difficult on a personal level’ when a person was ‘filtered through the kind of toxic filter of politics and power and then you are brought in to look like something that you really are, really not”.
She said: ‘The mental toll on her will be significant.
Labor MP Jess Phillips has previously called Ms Johnson’s criticism ‘sexist’ and ‘ageist’.
She said there had been briefings by “men who don’t like Carrie Symonds because they don’t have the influence they want to have”.
She added: “I literally haven’t seen any evidence in my day-to-day life that Carrie Symonds (has too much influence). In some ways, I might wish she had more – she’s pretty feminist.
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