Is Downing Street able to live even one week without getting involved in a scandal? Saturday (18 June) once published an article alleging that Boris Johnson, when he was Foreign Secretary in 2018, tried to hire his partner Carrie Symonds, now his wife, as his chief of staff with a salary of £100,000 a year (a move that would probably be a violation of the ministerial code).
The story appeared on page five of the paper’s first issue, but was removed from subsequent issues, and the Mail Online article also disappeared. once did not explain why the story was removed. Simon Walters, the political journalist who wrote this, said New European on Sunday afternoon that he backed the story “100 percent”.
The claim was supported by fellow Conservative Lord Ashcroft (who included the claim in his biography Carrie Johnson which was published Mail on Sunday), as well as Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings (who said Johnson was also trying to appoint his partner to official positions at the end of 2020).
Now it turned out that the work disappeared from once not because of legal or editorial issues, but because of a phone call from someone in Downing Street (an alarming indicator of how much influence No. 10 has in the media).
This is far from the first time that stories about the Prime Minister’s wife have prompted Downing Street to intimidate the press. Last year New European reported that a No. 10 official threatened legal action over claims that Johnson felt “buyer’s remorse” after marrying Carrie. It was also reported that Carrie asked her husband to report the incident. once to the Independent Press Standards Organization for an article that claimed they were going to get rid of their dog Deelin.
This behavior allegedly preceded Carrie’s arrival at Downing Street. Byline Times Web site informed that several years ago several articles were published about alleged scandals involving John Whittingdale, Minister of Culture. Whittingdale’s special adviser at the time? None other than Carrie Johnson.
If plan #10 was to try and distract voters from a potential scandal in a week of two crucial by-elections, it only succeeded in pushing a page five story to the top of the news agenda. It seems right, given the track record of this government.