A Cabinet minister has said that Carrie Johnson is a victim of misogynistic and sexist attacks after she insisted that she was being targeted by the Prime Minister’s “enemies” in a “brutal briefing campaign”.
Mrs Johnson’s role in her husband’s premiership had been put in the spotlight over the weekend when a biography of the 33-year-old, by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft, was serialised in the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday.
In a rare statement, the Prime Minister’s wife said on Sunday (6 February) that she “plays no role in Government”.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the claims against Mrs Johnson were sexist and called them “very undignified and very unfair.”
Here we take a look at what Lord Ashcroft’s book said and how the Prime Minister’s wife responded to the claims.
What are Lord Ashcroft’s claims about Carrie Johnson?
Writing in the newspaper, the peer said his research had suggested her “behaviour is preventing him (Boris Johnson) from leading Britain as effectively as the voters deserve”.
His book, First Lady: Intrigue at the Court of Carrie and Boris Johnson, also claims that Mr Johnson cuts a “lonely” figure because he is surrounded by aides who are among his wife’s close friends.
The Prime Minister reportedly “enrages” advisers by allowing Mrs Johnson to influence both appointments and policies, according to the Daily Mail.
Lord Ashcroft claims that frustrations with Mrs Johnson started in the Tory leadership campaign in 2019, with her trying “to direct and control events”.
The book’s claims follow allegations that Mrs Johnson has been caught up in a number of scandals involving the Prime Minister.
No 10 has denied Mr and Mrs Johnson had any involvement in the evacuation.
How Carrie Johnson responded to the claims in Lord Ashcroft’s book
A spokesperson for Mrs Johnson said on Sunday: “Yet again Mrs Johnson has been targeted by a brutal briefing campaign against her by enemies of her husband.
“This is just the latest attempt by bitter ex-officials to discredit her.
“She is a private individual who plays no role in Government.”
What else has been said about the claims against Carrie Johnson?
Guto Harri, the newly-appointed director of communications at Downing Street, told the BBC Newscast podcast that the episode “raises that other spectre that never goes away of who is influencing him (the PM) and we all know who’s being accused of doing so on this occasion, because she is an animal lover more than him really”.
Asked if he was referring to Mrs Johnson, he replied: “You said it, not me.”
The Prime Minister’s former chief aide, Dominic Cummings, has previously made it clear that he was no fan of Mrs Johnson and claimed that she wanted to “get rid” of him from No 10.
He alleged she was at one point “trying to change a whole bunch of different appointments at Number 10 and appoint her friends to particular jobs”.
His allies dubbed Mrs Johnson “Princess Nut Nut” in press briefings”.
David Cameron’s wife Samantha said the attacks on the Prime Minister’s wife were “sexist”.
She said: “In my view, your husband or partner is the Prime Minister, they’re quite able to take decisions themselves, they have a huge team of advisers.
“And so the idea that it’s the wife, that you’re somehow influencing them over and above what they think or what advice they’re getting from their team, I think it’s kind of demeaning, really, for the Prime Minister.”
Journalist Sarah Vine, who was married to Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove for 20 years, said the focus on Mrs Johnson was “the equivalent of political slut shaming”.
She told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “The trouble is, it’s always the easiest thing to do to blame the woman and the truth is far more complicated than that.
“If Boris Johnson has given Carrie too much access or too much leeway, that’s sort of his fault. He is the person in charge. He is the Prime Minister.”
Labour MP Jess Phillips previously called the criticism of Mrs Johnson as “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”.
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