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Carrie Johnson: Downing Street puppeteer or easy prey?

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 Some think Boris Johnson's wife is pulling the strings at No. 10, while others point out that the charges are rife with misogyny.

Boris Johnson's inner circle has crumbled so dramatically in recent days that his wife, Carrie Johnson, is the only close political friend left from his early days in No 10.

The most prominent prime ministerial spouse in recent memory, the 33-year-old Johnson works for a wildlife charity, but many Downing Street sources, past and present, believe her influence on the prime minister's operation is apparent.

Two of her pals, Henry Newman and Simone Finn, appear to have preserved their positions in the latest purge.

Those who know her claim she is desperate to retain Johnson in Downing Street, despite the problems surrounding No 10 parties – some of which she attended – and the finance of the No 11 flat makeover, which she worked on with famous designer Lulu Lytle.

The flat renovation, which included gold wallpaper and a £112,000 price tag, earned her the moniker "Carrie Antoinette," which she despises. However, according to a former Downing Street source, she had a another moniker - Ann Boleyn.

Her opponents see her as the much younger wife attempting to wield too much political power and manipulate an arrogant boss.

Former Downing Street officials said Carrie had the ability to persuade her husband to alter his mind, often overnight, on a subject on which they believed they had reached an agreement.

The prime leader would frequently tell advisers that if he did not perform a specific step, it would enrage his wife.

They also claimed Johnson getting dozens of texts from her during the workday - and Carrie Johnson regularly phoning his staff, demanding the prime minister be yanked out of meetings to speak with her.

Those who have crossed her – former strategist Dominic Cummings and, for a while, electoral guru Sir Lynton Crosby – have almost probably been fired, while those on her side have flourished politically, including pals like Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

Such descriptions, however, have more than a stench of misogyny, according to the female Tory MPs she has met.

Even some of her pals admit that she has sought to have her say on policy problems, messaging or WhatsApping ministers directly to give her thoughts. This is mostly due to her environmental concern, which has bonded her with the prime minister's father, Stanley, and the rich Tory peer, Zac Goldsmith.

The most contentious assertion is that she was behind the government's decision to transfer Pen Farthing animals from Afghanistan to the UK, which, according to a Foreign Office email, was authorised by the prime minister - something he denies. According to a friend, she flatly denied having anything to do with it, saying them that women and children should come first and that it was a complicated problem.

According to one individual who knows Symonds well, she is more concerned in reducing plastic trash than in reaching net zero, although she is "extremely sincere."

They claim her position at the Aspinall Foundation, a conservation nonprofit behind two safari parks in Kent, is demanding and that she will not be able to take maternity leave. Her current emphasis is on the charity's mission to return elephants to Africa, as well as negotiating a contract with Netflix for a documentary about it.

Friends describe her as "tremendously engaging and amusing," with strong opinions of her own. They describe her as sending a barrage of WhatsApp messages one evening, breaking up the next day, and then reconnecting as if nothing had occurred. Another individual who knows her from her days as a theatre and art history student at Warwick University says she has always been the "exact definition of capricious."

In this context, the Mirror has branded the prime minister's wife as "addicted to parties," citing three she allegedly attended during lockdown that were identified in the Sue Gray report and are now being investigated by police. There will be a garden party at Downing Street on 20 May 2020, a gathering in the Cabinet room for Johnson's birthday on 19 June 2020, and a party in the No 11 flat in November 2020. On the night of Cummings' departure from Downing Street, No 10 personnel reportedly heard music booming out into the room below, mistaking it for a "victory celebration."

She is well-known for her love of Abba, with Finn hosting an Abba-themed 30th birthday party for her.

This has resulted in embarrassing encounters with the prime minister, according to one source, who was "forced to dance like a performing monkey to Abba" with her considerably younger pals.

A few journalists have been known to socialise at the Downing Street residence and at Chequers, the prime minister's Buckinghamshire country house. Last year, at the Euros 2020, the Johnsons hosted the Sun editor, Victoria Newton, and a political writer who were in attendance to see the England vs. Scotland football match. No. 10 said that the rule of six was adhered to at all times.

Those who know them claim the Johnsons like to spend their weekends at Chequers, and that she occasionally remains after he has returned to London.

Dilyn the dog is an important part of her life, in addition to having a one-year-old and a baby, her own work, and a husband who is in severe danger. She is claimed to adore the Jack Russell cross, despite the fact that some who have seen him describe him as a "handful" who snaps at ankles and was once accused of peeing in an aide's handbag.

Cummings and many other sources have expressed her outrage at a media report implying the Johnsons could wish to rehome Dilyn, with some at No 10 considering filing a complaint with the press regulator.

In terms of her connection with Johnson, an adviser who worked on the prime minister's leadership campaign described him as periodically angry with her, but also as acting like a "devoted puppy" towards her at the time. He certainly supported her over Cummings when the two battled in November 2020, resulting in his departure.

Mrs. Johnson has "for some time been the victim of a targeted briefing effort to discredit her," according to her spokesman. She went on to say that "Carrie had absolutely no participation in the Pen Farthing evacuation" and that she didn't discuss it with campaigners, the prime minister, or his advisers.

Cummings has been forthright about his attempts to oust his former employer and wife from No. 10, characterising her as a "wrong un" who was heading the premiership into "inevitable calamity."

Cummings has lately stated that she was initially a big supporter of him joining the Downing Street operation because she had a "solid awareness of the PM's limits." "I suppose she anticipated that once the majority was achieved, she should take over as the main influence on him, with her people in crucial jobs underneath," he continued.

Carrie Johnson has little competition now that practically all of the prime minister's long-serving aides have left.

But, with Johnson's premiership presumably coming to an end, how valuable is that position of power any longer?

Former Tory minister Anna Soubry, who previously worked with Carrie Johnson, said it was a sad that she would now be permanently connected with Boris Johnson's likely brief premiership.

"I believe she's a really bright, enormously capable, and charming lady, but she's married to this disaster of a man." And it demonstrates to you that she is honourable, that she has stuck by him."