Home World Decorating Scandal Engulfs Boris Johnson and Puts Fiancée in Spotlight

Decorating Scandal Engulfs Boris Johnson and Puts Fiancée in Spotlight

Decorating Scandal Engulfs Boris Johnson and Puts Fiancée in Spotlight


LONDON — Of all of the unsavory moral questions swirling round Prime Minister Boris Johnson today, the one which has caught is how he paid for the expensive makeover of his condominium in Downing Street. And it has put his 33-year-old fiancée, Carrie Symonds, underneath a very scorching highlight.

Mr. Johnson has been accused in information experiences of secretly utilizing funds from a Conservative Party donor to complement his public funds for redecorating the condominium — a cost that, though Mr. Johnson says he has repaid the cash, has prompted an investigation by Britain’s Electoral Commission. But it’s Ms. Symonds and her purportedly costly style in wallpaper and designer furnishings that has turn into a operating theme on social media and in British tabloids.

“#CarrieAntoinette” is trending as a Twitter hashtag, whereas the chief of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, had himself photographed finding out wallpaper on the British division retailer John Lewis — a labored stunt meant to make mild of experiences that Ms. Symonds derided the Downing Street décor left by Mr. Johnson’s no-nonsense predecessor, Theresa May, as a “John Lewis furniture nightmare.”

Never thoughts that Ms. Symonds has not truly been quoted saying something about John Lewis. The reference, in a profile of her in Tatler journal, is attributed to an unnamed one that as soon as visited her in the condominium. Tatler did report that Ms. Symonds oversaw the renovation challenge, and her involvement means she, too, might have to show over proof to the Electoral Commission.

For Ms. Symonds, a former Conservative Party communications chief who now works for an animal-rights group, it’s the newest trial in a 12 months overstuffed with dramatics: the near-fatal sickness of Mr. Johnson after he contracted the coronavirus; the start of their son, Wilfred; and the bitter purging of Mr. Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, in which she is reported to have performed a behind-the-scenes function.

It all has put Ms. Symonds on the coronary heart of a well-known narrative, one replete with sexism and double requirements: the greedy, manipulative politician’s companion. She joins a parade of ladies, from Hillary Clinton to Cherie Blair, the spouse of Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose murmurings to their males had been the topic of fevered suspicion.

The undeniable fact that her relationship with Mr. Johnson coincided with the breakup of his 25-year marriage, and that she turned the primary single companion to maneuver into Downing Street, solely provides to Ms. Symonds’ tabloid portrayal as a libertine Lady Macbeth or an upwardly cellular Marie Antoinette — select your cliché.

“The outsized fascination with Carrie Symonds’ role in the prime minister’s circle reflects outdated sexist tropes that regard women in positions of influence as inherently devious,” stated Sophia Gaston, director of the British Foreign Policy Group and a analysis fellow on the London School of Economics.

Her defenders say that as an achieved political participant in her personal proper, Ms. Symonds has no much less proper to supply recommendation to the prime minister than another unpaid adviser — and he can be clever to take it.

And but, others say, there are official inquiries to ask about Ms. Symonds’ affect, which matches past the information media’s obsessive give attention to residence enhancements at Downing Street. Her ardent protection of animal rights was reported to have contributed to the federal government’s resolution to halt a cull of badgers in Derbyshire, which contradicted the recommendation of scientists and veterinarians.

Friends of Ms. Symonds have been put in in key positions in Downing Street and, in the telling of Mr. Cummings, protected by her even after proof of wrongdoing. On his weblog, he claimed that Mr. Johnson wished to close down a leak investigation after it turned clear that the perpetrator was Henry Newman, a detailed adviser to Ms. Symonds.

Mr. Cummings quoted Mr. Johnson as saying to him, “If Newman is confirmed as the leaker, then I will have to fire him, and this will cause me very serious problems with Carrie, as they’re best friends.”

Downing Street has denied that Mr. Johnson tried to close down the investigation, nevertheless it didn’t remark about Ms. Symonds’ function.

Her defenders say she has a savvy political sense and may nicely have aspired to a seat in Parliament if she hadn’t begun a relationship with Mr. Johnson. To the extent that she is giving him recommendation, some say, it’s useful: chopping free Mr. Cummings and different hard-core Brexiteers softened the prime minister’s picture and improved his reputation earlier than the current ethics points pulled him again to his extra acquainted function as a political scalawag.

“She was fantastic — she is very loyal and was hugely supportive,” stated John Whittingdale, a former tradition secretary for whom Ms. Symonds served as a particular adviser. He described her as “a strongly committed Conservative” and a “very strong Brexit supporter” at a time when that was a much less standard place.

“The people who are attacking Carrie clearly see a route to damage the prime minister by attacking her,” he stated.

Ms. Symonds labors underneath a couple of handicaps, one in all which is the dearth of a job description for a first-rate minister’s companion. The function has no constitutional standing, and in contrast to that of first woman in the United States, little administrative assist. Successful spouses have normally had sturdy identities outdoors Downing Street.

Margaret Thatcher’s husband, Denis, was a businessman, as is Mrs. May’s husband, Philip. David Cameron’s spouse, Samantha, ran a style firm, whereas Ms. Blair, who as soon as had her personal political ambitions, labored as a high-level barrister throughout her husband’s decade in workplace. Though Ms. Blair’s affect got here underneath criticism early on, the scrutiny subsided as she constructed a flourishing authorized profession.

“She always knew she could go back to her job at the bar, which made it less demeaning to be the appendage,” stated Fiona Millar, a journalist and onetime aide to Ms. Blair. Ms. Symonds, she stated, “doesn’t seem to have that life outside politics, which the people who’ve been successful at it did have.”

The daughter of Matthew Symonds, a co-founder of The Independent newspaper, and a lawyer for the paper, Josephine McAfee, Ms. Symonds was raised by her mom (each dad and mom had been married to different individuals on the time).

Her younger maturity was deeply affected by an incident in 2007 when she was focused by a taxi driver who served her spiked drinks whereas driving her residence. Ms. Symonds testified towards the person, John Worboys, who was jailed as a serial sexual predator.

Well related and social, Ms. Symonds turned a public relations aide for the Conservative Party, finally rising to chief communications officer, the place she encountered Mr. Johnson. The couple had hoped to get married final summer season, after his divorce from Marina Wheeler turned closing, however delayed the date due to coronavirus restrictions.

Life in Downing Street is much less glamorous than it’d seem, Ms. Millar stated. While the job comes with a spacious Westminster condominium, a baronial weekend residence, Chequers, and an annual adorning funds of £30,000 ($41,600), the federal government doesn’t pay for meals or family workers. Outside of public events, the couple are anticipated to cook dinner for themselves or get takeout.

Living above the workplace, as Mr. Johnson struggled with the pandemic and his personal sickness, was difficult, individuals who know Ms. Symonds stated. She contracted Covid herself, whereas pregnant, and then cared for his or her child whereas Mr. Johnson, 56, was nonetheless shaking off his sickness.

“There were times last week that were very dark indeed,” Ms. Symonds tweeted after he was launched from an intensive care unit. Despite that, she retained her curiosity in environmental safety.

“Since having Wilf & not being able to get to the shops during lockdown,” she posted 4 months later, “I’ve relied on Amazon for lots of baby essentials, but I’ve been dismayed at the amount of plastic packaging. Please sign this petition to ask Amazon to give us plastic-free options too.”

Political commentators say they see Ms. Symonds’ fingerprints in Mr. Johnson’s embrace of inexperienced insurance policies. They say she has performed to his pragmatic instincts by nudging him towards a extra conciliatory politics.

Few prime ministerial companions have been so deeply immersed in politics. Not solely does she know the Conservative Party nicely, she additionally has sturdy contacts amongst its lawmakers, political journalists and the particular advisers who play a robust function in Downing Street and elsewhere in the federal government.

Steven Fielding, professor of political historical past on the University of Nottingham, stated individuals have questioned Ms. Symonds’ affect “because of her specific insights and connections and background as a political operative and because of Boris Johnson’s malleability, and the fact that no one is sure what in his head.”

Some of the uneasiness about Ms. Symonds is as a lot about Mr. Johnson as her. With few mounted positions and an absence of ideological moorings, he leaves the impression that his selections may be swayed by these with best entry to him. During a 12 months of lockdowns, that circle typically shrank to Ms. Symonds.

“The reason we’re fussing over this is that we think we have an inadequate figure as prime minister,” stated Jill Rutter, a former civil servant who’s a senior analysis fellow on the U.Ok. in a Changing Europe, a London suppose tank. “If we thought we had a really good prime minister, would we really care who his spouse is, beyond hoping he has a happy personal life?”


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