A row broke out last night over allegations that Boris Johnson and his now wife Carrie broke Covid lockdown rules last Christmas by allowing her best friend to stay with them at Downing Street.
The Prime Minister denied claims in the US Harper’s Magazine that political campaigner Nimco Ali ‘spent Christmas with the couple at No 10 despite pandemic restrictions on holiday gatherings’.
The article also said that Mrs Johnson ‘modelled’ her wardrobe and public image on the Duchess of Cambridge, but is ‘bitter’ that the duchess gets better publicity.
Spokesmen for the Prime Minister and Mrs Johnson said both claims were untrue.
The 4,500-word profile of the couple says Mrs Johnson has ‘assembled an impressive court around her’ while the PM is a ‘lonely figure’ and ‘quite scared’ of her.
It claims he spends ‘more and more time downstairs’ at No 10 reading – including a book by his ex-wife Marina Wheeler, because he ‘doesn’t want to take it upstairs’.
A row broke out last night over allegations that Boris Johnson and his now wife Carrie broke Covid lockdown rules last Christmas by allowing her best friend to stay with them at Downing Street
The Harper’s article is written by Lara Prendergast, executive editor of The Spectator magazine, edited by Mr Johnson before he entered politics and which has strong links to Downing Street.
In the piece she describes how she put her claims over the Christmas gathering to No 10. She says that a spokesman told her ‘the Prime Minister and Mrs Johnson follow coronavirus rules at all times’ – but did not deny the claim.
She adds that Miss Ali, godmother to the Johnsons’ son Wilfred, ‘did not respond to repeated requests for comment’.
Last Christmas, London was under Tier 4 restrictions, meaning people should not have mixed with anyone outside their households, except in support and childcare bubbles.
It was later disclosed that the role, for which she is paid £350 a day for around two days’ work a month, was not advertised openly.
Reports claim Carrie’s best friend political campaigner Nimco Ali spent Christmas with the Johnsons at No 10, despite lockdown restrictions on holiday gatherings
The profile says Miss Ali ‘is regularly sent out to fight for Carrie in the press’.
The article also suggests Mrs Johnson, 33, who married the Prime Minister in May and is now expecting their second child, sees the Duchess of Cambridge as a rival.
‘Carrie is said to model both her fashion sense and her press operations on Catherine,’ Miss Prendergast writes.
‘A confidant told me Carrie is often preoccupied with the duchess, and expressed bitterness about Kate’s ability to generate positive items about herself in the British press.’
The claims were strongly rebutted last night. A No 10 spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister and Mrs Johnson have followed coronavirus rules at all times. It is totally untrue to suggest otherwise.’
And a spokesman for Mrs Johnson said it was ‘rubbish’ to suggest she modelled herself on the Duchess of Cambridge or was ‘bitter’.
The article also said that Mrs Johnson ‘modelled’ her wardrobe and public image on the Duchess of Cambridge, but is ‘bitter’ that the duchess gets better publicity
Elsewhere in the article, Miss Prendergast praises ‘brand-focused’ Mrs Johnson, a former Tory HQ head of communications, for cleaning up the PM’s ‘shabby image’ and getting him to embrace ‘progressive’ causes such as animal welfare and women’s rights.
She notes: ‘She saw in him a project… a man with huge popularity but few allies and friends, a right-wing political beast to be relaunched with the tastes of sensitive millennials in mind.
‘The Conservatives were known as the ‘nasty party’. Under Carrie, they are becoming cute.’
The article says Mrs Johnson has ‘assembled an impressive court around her and is more media-savvy’ than most ministers. But Miss Prendergast questions her methods.
She writes: ‘The Downing Street press office seems terrified of her. She is said to feed information to contacts to see where it then appears, and will turn on those she feels she cannot trust.’
A 4,500-word profile of the couple claimed the PM spends ‘more and more time downstairs’ at No 10 reading – including The Lost Homestead, a book by his ex-wife Marina Wheeler, because he ‘doesn’t want to take it upstairs’
The magazine says Mr Johnson increasingly stays in his No 10 study instead of joining his wife in their official flat.
It adds: ‘He likes to read The Spectator late at night,’ one former aide tells me. A copy of The Lost Homestead, the new book by his ex-wife Marina Wheeler (about her Indian heritage), has been spotted open in his office.’
The profile also challenges the way questions about aspects of Mrs Johnson’s conduct are brushed aside, adding: ‘Any attempt to scrutinise her growing political influence is deemed misogynistic.’
‘Previously, a prime minister’s spouse would have faced minimal press intrusion… but the current situation is different.’
The article concludes: ‘To plenty of people, it seems… a little odd that a 33-year-old woman who specialises in political spin has such apparent influence over policy-making. She is unelected and, in many ways, unaccountable.’