- Boris Johnson news – live: PM dodges question on whether he offered Carrie top job The Independent
- Boris Johnson avoids answering question over claims he tried getting Carrie Johnson two top jobs Evening Standard
- Evidence exists that PM tried to get top job for Carrie Johnson, says source The Guardian
- ‘Carriegate’ is just another Johnson scandal – and not even the most interesting of the bunch The Independent
- The ‘pulled’ Carrie Johnson story raises questions we simply cannot ignore iNews
By-election news – live: Tory chair couldn’t go on ‘defending the indefensible’
Oliver Dowden’s resignation is ‘significant’, senior Tory says
Oliver Dowden quit his role as Tory Party chair because he “can’t go on defending the indefensible”, a senior Tory has suggested.
“That Oliver Dowden has resigned is…significant,” Sir Roger Gale, the North Thanet MP told Sky News earlier. “Oliver is an honourable and decent man and he’s obviously decided that he can’t go on defending the indefensible”.
The PM has insisted that he will “keep going” at No 10 despite the crushing double by-election losses.
Simon Lightwood won for Labour in Wakefield in West Yorkshire after gaining 13,166 votes to the Conservatives 8,231. Meanwhile, The Liberal Democrats’ Richard Foord won convincingly in Devon gaining 22,537 votes overturning a 24,000 Tory majority.
Sturgeon – byelection results ‘monumental and humiliating’ for PM
Speaking from the Royal Highland Show on Friday, Scottish first minister Ms Sturgeon urged Tory MPs to remove Boris Johnson.
“It’s a monumental, massive, humiliating vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson,” she said.
“People could see it coming 100 miles off and it should send a very strong message – if not to Boris Johnson, who is impervious to all of these things given his arrogance, it should send a very strong message to the Conservatives.
“If they keep Boris Johnson, a law breaking prime minister who has been seen to not tell the truth, if they keep him in office, then effectively they are all becoming complicit in this.
“If this is not a wake-up call to the Conservative Party, then it will just prove beyond doubt that they don’t have the interests of any part of the UK in mind or at heart.”
Tories can’t win majority at next election under Johnson, polling expert says
The Tories can’t win a majority at the next general election under Boris Johnson, a polling expert has said in the wake of last night’s byelection defeats.
Peter Kellner, former president of YouGov, spoke to Sky News earlier.
Mr Kellner also claimed the two by-elections were a referendum on the prime minister’s leadership.
“I’ve been saying for some time that I don’t think the Conservatives can win under Boris Johnson,” he said.
“I was saying that based on polls. But when you do get real votes in two very different parts of the country…the Conservative gets hammered in both…I would have thought the Tories’ only chance is to change leader.”
It will be ‘difficult’ to hold my seat, Tory grandee concedes
Tory grandee Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said there is “no doubt” it would be “difficult to hold” his seat if there were a by-election in his constituency now.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the MP for the Cotswolds and treasurer of the 1922 committee said: “I think, factually, if I were to run under a bus today it would be difficult to hold my seat. There’s no doubt about that.
“I feel very sorry for all our volunteers, and indeed my colleagues, and indeed myself, who work very hard in these by-elections, but were simply defeated by the situation that we find ourselves in at the moment.”
Dowden couldn’t go on ‘defending the indefensible’, senior Tory says
Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden quit because he “can’t go on defending the indefensible”, a senior Tory has suggested.
Mr Dowden resigned shortly after the Tories lost by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton, where Partygate was again raised as an issue by voters.
“That Oliver Dowden has resigned is…significant,” Sir Roger Gale, the North Thanet MP said.
“Oliver is an honourable and decent man and he’s obviously decided that he can’t go on defending the indefensible”.
Minister – Oliver Dowden took a ‘personal view’ on quitting
Oliver Dowden took a “personal view” on Boris Johnson in his resignation letter this morning, a government minister has said.
Paul Scully, the business minister, defended the PM’s “brazen approach” and insisted he would come up with “big ideas” to get the UK’s flailing economy back on track.
Mr Scully also said that the party did not need the “psychodrama” of leadership campaigns while inflation was spiralling.
Alastair Campbell brands Boris Johnson a ‘useless, lying crook’
Boris Johnson is a “useless, lying crook”, Alastair Campbell has said after the prime minister led his party to two defeats in last night’s by-elections.
The former Labour spin doctor spoke to Sky News earlier after the Tories lost Wakefield to Labour and Tiverton and Honiton to the Lib Dems.
“The guy can’t do the job,” Mr Campbell said. “They all [Tory MPs] know he can’t do the job.
Time for Tories to return to ‘moderate opinion’, says ex-minister
Tory MP Robert Buckland blamed the cost of living and “deep concern” over Partygate for “very bad results” last night, Adam Forrest, our politics correspondent, reports.
The former minister said Mr Dowden’s resignation would create “further problems” for Mr Johnson – and called for the party to return to “mainstream, moderate opinion”.
But he defended his decision to support the PM at the recent confidence vote, saying it would be wrong to think that “removing another prime minister is job done”, adding: “I don’t think throwing over the captain now would be the right response.”
No more cabinet resignations, says Priti Patel
Home secretary Priti Patel said the prime minister told her the government is “cracking on with task” after the double by-election defeats.
Asked what Boris Johnson said to her following the results, she told LBC: “The fact of the matter is that we’re cracking on with the task.”
Pressed on what the PM said, she said: “Yes, exactly that, absolutely, that we are carrying on, working to grow our economy and address the cost of living… and providing the leadership that we need in challenging times.
“We do that collectively, we really do as one government working together.”
Asked if she thought there would be more resignations, she said: “I don’t.”
‘Difficult decisions to make’ after by-election losses, 1922 committee treasurer says
The treasurer of the 1922 committee Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said the Conservatives will then have “some difficult decisions to make, no doubt” on how to move forward.
He said he will discuss the by-election defeats at a Conservative AGM (Annual General Meeting) on Friday evening and expects to make “difficult decisions”.
The MP for The Cotswolds told the BBC’s Today programme that MPs would in the coming days decide whether steps should be taken to oust Boris Johnson.
Speaking on a phone line, Mr Clifton-Brown said: “I’m not going to come on out this morning and speculate on behalf of my colleagues as to whether we should or shouldn’t change the rules. Clearly what’s going to happen over the next few days is the Prime Minister is going to set out to both his Cabinet and with us as Members of Parliament.”
The line then broke off momentarily before he added: “We will then in the parliamentary party have to make a judgment as to whether we think that is a satisfactory explanation or whether we should actually take steps to have a new prime minister.”
The Tory grandee, who voted against Mr Johnson in the confidence vote over his leadership, added: “I’ve got an AGM tonight, I will consider what my members say, I will then discuss this matter with my colleagues, we will hear what the prime minister says and then we will have to make some difficult decisions, no doubt.”
Evidence exists that PM tried to get top job for Carrie Johnson, says source
Correspondence exists confirming that Boris Johnson attempted in 2019 to secure a senior role for his then girlfriend, Carrie Johnson, at the Foreign Office, a source has said, amid growing calls for an inquiry.
The source, who worked with Johnson at the time, said Carrie Johnson – now the prime minister’s wife – had never progressed as far as formally applying for the role.
But they claimed that Johnson, then foreign secretary, had repeatedly pressed for her to be picked for the senior taxpayer-funded job, a fact reflected in internal documentation from the period that could be examined by an inquiry.
The prime minister’s spokesperson has previously said they were unable to comment on Johnson’s activities before he became prime minister, but that “others have made clear this story is untrue”.
A former Foreign Office minister, Alan Duncan, also said he was told in 2018 that Carrie Johnson was a rising star running communications in Conservative campaign headquarters (CCHQ) and was being lined up for a special adviser role in the department.
“For someone slightly unproven who knew nothing about foreign affairs to come straight out of CCHQ and into the Foreign Office was rather noticeable,” Duncan told the Guardian.
He said he had no idea of the nature of her relationship with Johnson and the suggestion about her rapid promotion had only been cursorily mentioned, though added: “Had it got closer to the goal, people who knew more would have revealed more and then the bubble would have burst.”
Duncan said the suggestion that Johnson had tried to get his girlfriend a £100,000-a-year taxpayer-funded job was the latest evidence of his “dripping ceiling theory”. He explained: “They put one bucket under one drip, another bucket under another drip – but at some point the whole ceiling will come falling down.”
The chair of the House of Commons standards committee, Chris Bryant, called on Tuesday for the “paper trail” surrounding the issue to be published. “It is manifestly corrupt to appoint your lover as a Spad,” he said in a tweet.
At the time, Johnson was still married to his second wife, Marina Wheeler.
Bryant was urged by the Liberal Democrats’ chief whip, Wendy Chamberlain, to investigate the allegations, given the government’s ethics adviser role remains unfilled after the resignation of Christopher Geidt last week.
After Geidt said the claims “could be ripe for investigation”, Chamberlain said there was a “significant risk that no such inquiry will follow” because No 10 has not committed to replacing Geidt while it reviews the role.
Chamberlain said: “If found to be true, these allegations would amount to a serious breach of standards in public life and bring not just the office of prime minister into disrepute, but parliament and our politics as a whole.”
Given the standards committee can only conduct general inquires and those referred to it by the standards commissioner, Bryant would have to launch an investigation into “ministerial attempts to appoint people of interest” and then call Johnson as a witness to formally examine the case.
Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, raised concerns over the alleged attempt by Johnson to make an “inappropriate appointment to his own office”, but called it “just another case of dishing out jobs to those close to him”.
She said the country could not “endure another five months with no accountability in Downing Street” and joked that “to this prime minister, ethics is a county east of London”.
The Conservative MP Jackie Doyle-Price told the Commons in response that the person picked to replace Geidt “would be taking a massive reputational risk in taking the job”, and urged colleagues not to break the law or sully standards. “It should be in our DNA to play by the rules of the game,” she said.
Michael Ellis, the Cabinet Office minister, defied calls to put a time limit on filling Geidt’s role. He said the appointment would be made after “proper diligence and attention” and should not be concluded “in haste”.
After the Mirror reported that Johnson discussed giving environmental roles to his wife in autumn 2020, No 10 said the prime minister did not recommend her for any appointments but would not “get into any conversations he may or may not have had”.
Carrie Johnson’s spokesperson has called the claims about her being offered a job in the Foreign Office “totally untrue”. On the subsequent claims about attempts to find her a job elsewhere, they said: “This is an old story, as untrue now as it was then.”
What are we to make of the tawdry saga of what we must now, with grim inevitability, learn to call “Carriegate”? Like all news phenomena graced by the “gate” suffix, there are events, or alleged events; and then there is the cover-up, or alleged cover-up, which, as the saying goes, is the bit that always gets you. Both Boris and Carrie Johnson have vehemently denied the truthfulness of the story.
The events, or alleged events, seem to be twofold. First, and matter of some public concern, is expressed succinctly in the headline that appeared in the first edition of last Saturday’s Times: “Johnson tried to give Carrie top Foreign Office job during affair”. A similar story appeared in the Daily Mail and MailOnline, though not on the Times website, nor in subsequent print editions. It has now disappeared from the Mail’s website.
The story was unhelpful to the prime minister, but run by a couple of newspapers sympathetic to the Tories and, in the Mail’s case, fanatically loyal to the PM. It was written at the Times by Simon Walters, who used to work for the Mail, and was a development of a story that appeared earlier this year in a book about the current Mrs Johnson, entitled First Lady.
Why was it pulled? At first, there were rumours swirling around legal action and Downing Street interventions. These were then denied, but subsequently, partially, withdrawn. Downing Street confirms that members of Boris Johnson’s “team” did object when the Times story hit the newsstands, but deny that the prime minister himself contacted the paper to complain.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson states, in a slightly off formulation: “Others have made clear this story is not true, including Mrs Johnson’s spokesperson. I would point you to the denials and statements put out by Mrs Johnson on this and by No 10 colleagues over the weekend. We were approached before publication and spoke to them then. I think we spoke to them after publication as well. I don’t know the exact timeline of it.”
Perhaps unwisely, the PM’s mouthpiece had a go at Walters: “This is a grubby, discredited story turned down by most reputable media outlets because it isn’t true. The facts speak for themselves.” Carrie Johnson’s statement, about the substance of the story, is unequivocal: “These claims are totally untrue.”
But are they? Walters is just as clear that he stands by the tale. He maintains that the reason why the supposed bid to get the then-Carrie Symonds, whose relationship with Johnson was then not widely known, a £100,000 a year post in “early 2018”, failed was that officials at the Foreign Office became aware of the fact that they were more than mere acquaintances through her party work as head of communications.
In such circumstances, there was a revolt by officials because it would break the ministerial and social service codes, was cronyistic, and she was underqualified to be chief of staff, or something like that.
“I stand by the story 100 per cent,” Walters told the New European. “I was in lengthy and detailed communication with No 10 at a high level, Ben Gascoigne and Mrs Johnson’s spokeswoman for up to 48 hours before the paper went to press. At no point did any of them offer an on-the-record denial of any element of the story. Nor have any of these three offered an on-the-record denial to me since. No 10 and Mr Gascoigne did not deny it off-the-record either.”
In the story that appeared in only the first edition of the Times on Saturday, Walters wrote that Ben Gascoigne – a senior aide to Johnson at the Foreign Office, who still works for him as a deputy chief of staff in No 10 – had threatened to resign if Johnson had gone through with the appointment of Symonds. It would clearly have been – as Walters wrote – “a flagrant abuse of ethics” and the ministerial code.
The knowledge about the Symonds-Johnson affair came about because an unnamed MP walked into Johnson’s office and found the pair in a compromising position. Walters wrote: “The Times has identified and contacted four allies of Boris Johnson who know of the matter. Three, two of whom were given senior ministerial jobs when Johnson became prime minister in 2019, spoke in return for anonymity.
One said: ‘An illicit relationship with Carrie was none of our business: making her chief of staff was definitely our business. Our job was to protect him. He kept saying she would be great in the job. We knew what was going on between them and that it was an insane risk to him to let him do it.’ A second ally said: ‘Most of us thought she wasn’t the right person because she was relatively inexperienced.’”
Curiously, the unnamed MP who gave the story about walking in abruptly on Johnson and Symonds to Ashcroft partly denied it to Walters, as “20 per cent true”, which suggests that perhaps the lovers were not in full flagrante delicto.
Walters and Ashcroft do, however, agree on the substance of the story, which is actually a serious matter, and one that would be referred to the independent adviser of ministerial conduct, if there was one. But there isn’t, and may never be.
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The only other published corroboration, so far, is a stray line in In The Thick of It, the published diaries of Alan Duncan MP. Duncan was a minister of state of state at the foreign office at the time and his diary for Sunday 22 April reads: “Apparently Carrie Symonds, head of press in Conservative HQ, is due to become a Spad in the FCO. It’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
Were it not for the many other scandals and failures that have benighted this government and the country, the allegations about the prime minister wanting to give his girlfriend a job as a senior adviser, without declaring the interest, and the subsequent attempt, justified or not, to suppress the story would merit far more media attention.
But even the most censorious of his critics eventually gets blasé about his actions, and start making excuses and writing his script for him: “It was, after all, years ago… before he became PM… no one has gone on the record about it… she never got the job anyway… there’d have been a procedure… there’s bigger problems around… it’s sexist… Starmer’s not doing very well… vaccine roll-out… Zelensky.”
I’m making excuses for him! See what I mean? But none of us should ever get used to what Boris Johnson tries on. He has the morals of an alley cat and we’re reminded of it virtually every day. That’s no reason to normalise him.
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