Tory MPs and ex-aides raise fears over Carrie Symonds power play


Fears were raised today that Carrie Symonds has made herself a ‘target’ for political enemies after the extraordinary power struggle in No10.

The PM’s fiancee has been at the centre of an extraordinary briefing war that saw Dominic Cummings and his Vote Leave faction effectively ousted from Downing Street.

There are claims she is driving Mr Johnson’s bid to ‘reset’ his government, drafting in her own allies and pushing for tougher environment measures.  

But while allies say as an experienced political operator Ms Symonds is entitled to make her views felt, MPs are privately concerned that she has become too involved, suggesting she should follow the example of Theresa May’s husband Philip and keep a lower profile. ‘Once you step up to the mark you become a target, which isn’t going to help anyone,’ one MP told MailOnline. 

A former Tory adviser – who is no fan of Mr Cummings – described the events of the past week as ‘unreal’, saying Ms Symonds had been an ‘absolute nightmare’ to work with in the past. 

‘This is definitely all going to end in tears,’ they said. 

Carrie Symonds (pictured with Boris Johnson in March) has been at the centre of an extraordinary briefing war that saw Dominic Cummings and his Vote Leave faction effectively ousted from Downing Street

Downing Street is braced for Mr Cummings (pictured today) to take revenge after his departure from government

Downing Street is braced for Mr Cummings (pictured today) to take revenge after his departure from government 

Rishi ‘in pole position’ to take over from PM 

Rishi Sunak is in ‘pole position’ to take over from Boris Johnson if his premiership comes to an abrupt end, MPs believe.

The PM is braced for a potential revenge attack from Dominic Cummings after the maverick chief aide was ousted in an extraordinary power struggle with Carrie Symonds.

Meanwhile, many senior Tories are convinced the the ‘knackered’ PM will not fight the next election, with suggestions he could use the roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine as a moment to leave and seek an easier and more lucrative life in the private sector.  

Opinion is divided over whether Mr Sunak – a widely respected ‘fiscal hawk’ but a relative novice having only been an MP since 2015 – is angling for the top job, despite his public protestations of loyalty and that he does not want to be PM.

Some senior MPs are convinced he is ‘agitating like fury’, and has concluded he cannot afford to stay at the Treasury too long with a brutal reckoning looming on the public finances due to the pandemic.

But others say he has no need to press the case as ‘all he has to do is wait’ for when Mr Johnson chooses to step down.    

Tories who have had dealings with Mr Sunak stress his formidable intellect and ability to process detail – something that contrasts with Mr Johnson who is regarded as more of a ‘big picture’ politician.

Mr Sunak is also known as a warm and engaging personality, with ‘Jedi level Star Wars trivia’. 

‘He has a ferocious attention to detail. He hoovers up briefing books, and always wants more not less information,’ one aide told MailOnline.  

Some MPs regard Mr Sunak as not particularly tribal, despite his strong Tory instincts on the economy and Brexit. He has managed to stay largely out of the bitter infighting in No10, despite being the main Cabinet hawk on the need to ease lockdown.

He publicly professes total loyalty to Mr Johnson and has insisted he has no interest in becoming PM.  

But others point to his astute hires and slick PR operation, including images for popular policies such as Eat Out to Help Out that featured his signature.

There are rumours that Ms Symonds is pushing for Lord True, a government minister and former speechwriter to John Major, to become chief of staff. Lord True has close links to the ‘Richmond set’ group of Ms Symonds’ allies. 

Meanwhile, other Tory MPs have warned that Mr Johnson’s own future might depend on the success of his ‘reset’, amid anger at bungling and U-turns on issues like free school meals.

‘I think people are now looking to see if there is going to be a change,’ one previously strong supporter of the PM said. 

‘There has been a lot of smarting by MPs about that kind of mismanagement. We are looking for real change in in comms and direction. We need to see something different now. It’s got to be more on the front foot and looking at unintended consequences.’

There are also complaints that 1922 chair Sir Graham Brady was being denied access to the PM. ‘There has been a real problem with getting access to the PM. Even under Theresa May she might have ignored what she was told but at least she was told it to her face,’ the Tory added.

‘For him to rebuff the 22, not have a regularly fortnightly meeting with the chairman, is completely wrong… it’s not clever.’  

The MP said Mr Johnson might decide he wants to go but would want to leave ‘on a high’ – suggesting the roll-out of a vaccine could be a prime moment. 

‘The guy could be earning a load more money. He is a very saleable asset. If Theresa May can earn a million being an absolute failure of a PM… ‘ the MP said.

‘He’s had a sh** year. He should have really just been focusing on Brexit, instead of which he has had to bear the brunt of this unprecedented virus.

‘I’d think he would at least want to go out on a high. The way you do that is to ensure that the vaccine does start to roll out.’ 

However, other MPs insisted ‘rumours of Boris’s demise are exaggerated’, saying he could recover his position by appointing the right person to get a grip on No10.  

The war of words, played out in claim and counter-claim, has cast a shadow over Mr Johnson’s leadership at a time when the country should be focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Downing Street has been braced for a series of ‘revenge’ stories since Mr Cummings and Mr Cain left, given their inside knowledge of the corridors of power.

Friends of Ms Symonds told the Daily Mail she had ended the ‘macho culture’ within No 10, denying claims that Mr Johnson was ‘running government by girlfriend’ and accused detractors of ‘rank misogyny’.  

MPs say Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured on a visit in London today)  is in 'pole position' to take over from Mr Johnson if the PM's 'reset' fails

MPs say Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured on a visit in London today)  is in ‘pole position’ to take over from Mr Johnson if the PM’s ‘reset’ fails 

Yesterday ministers swiped at Mr Cummings today as the government desperately tried to draw a line under the extraordinary coup in Downing Street.

Environment Secretary George Eustice branded the maverick former chief aide a ‘campaign’ specialist who worked in ‘short bursts’ – casting doubt on his effectiveness at governing. 

He also jibed that building relationships and alliances was not the ‘forte’ of the notoriously intense Mr Cummings.

But there are fears that Mr Cummings will not go quietly, with reports he has taken to answering questions about his plans by taking a pin out of an imaginary hand grenade and throwing it over his shoulder. 

The briefing war rocked Downing Street to its foundations after long-term tensions erupted publicly over the past week, with the PM’s fiancee and new press secretary Allegra Stratton apparently joining forces to oust the Vote Leave cabal headed by Mr Cummings.  

In interviews on Sunday morning Mr Eustice said Mr Cummings ‘tends to apply himself in short bursts’, saying Mr Johnson was entitled to decide who was in his team.

He told Sky News: ‘I’ve known Dominic Cummings myself for many years. He’s got many great strengths and one of them is winning campaigns.

‘And he tends to apply himself in short bursts, short tours of duty, on big strategic changes such as the 2016 referendum result, such as the 2019 general election.

‘And he’s very talented at that. But it’s always the Prime Minister’s prerogative who will be their key advisors.’ 

Inside the crazy court of Queen Carrie: Boris’s fiancee tried to stop Covid meeting so he would battle fake story about her DOG – then he broke rules to appoint new PR Allegra in case lover went ‘effing crackers’

The civil war in Downing Street after the ousting of two top aides took another dramatic turn last night as a flurry of astonishing new claims emerged, writes Simon Walters.

Among them was the suggestion that Boris Johnson appointed his new press secretary – former BBC and ITV journalist Allegra Stratton – to appease fiancee Carrie Symonds and prevent her from ‘going f****** crackers’.

The shocking allegations came after a weekend in which Downing Street’s dirty laundry was aired for all to see, with the infighting that led to the departure of Dominic Cummings and communications chief Lee Cain laid bare.

The influential aides both left No 10 on Friday, seemingly having lost a power struggle with Miss Symonds and her allies.

Among the slew of allegations was the suggestion that Boris Johnson appointed his new TV spokesman  to appease fiancee Carrie Symonds (pictured together outside No. 10)

Among the slew of allegations was the suggestion that Boris Johnson appointed his new TV spokesman  to appease fiancee Carrie Symonds (pictured together outside No. 10)

The war of words, played out in claim and counter-claim, has cast a shadow over Mr Johnson’s leadership at a time when the country should be focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Downing Street has been braced for a series of ‘revenge’ stories since Mr Cummings and Mr Cain left, given their inside knowledge of the corridors of power.

Friends of Miss Symonds hailed her for ending the ‘macho culture’ within No 10, denied claims that Mr Johnson was ‘running government by girlfriend’ and accused detractors of ‘rank misogyny’.

She has been dragged into infighting as part of a smear campaign, angry allies said. But last night insiders showed no sign of letting the bitter row drop with a number of breathtaking new claims.

Most extraordinary of all was the allegation that, as mistrust circled among those closest to the PM, discussions were even held in which one official suggested that top secret information should be kept from Mr Johnson’s red box – the Government briefcases used by all ministers.

The notion was reportedly floated in response to concern that some ‘non-sensitive’ issues in his red box had been mysteriously leaked. There is no suggestion that Miss Symonds was involved.

Downing Street also last night angrily rebuffed the claim, saying it was ‘categorically untrue’. Miss Symonds did not respond to a request for a comment.

Insiders said the acrimony between Miss Symonds and Mr Cummings and Mr Cain was obvious as far back as March.

It was then that she allegedly tried to stop the Prime Minister hosting a Covid crisis meeting to deal instead with a newspaper report claiming she wanted to get rid of their beloved Jack Russell cross Dilyn.

Mr Cummings ‘forced’ Mr Johnson to overrule his fiancee, it was claimed. He told No 10 officials to block any phone calls from Miss Symonds to the Prime Minister about the dog, it was claimed. 

And he gave orders for Miss Symonds’ official protest about the news report about Dilyn to be ‘burned’.

Miss Symonds was said to be livid at a report in The Times which claimed that she no longer liked the animal.

The former BBC and ITV journalist Allegra Stratton is pictured departing Downing Street

The former BBC and ITV journalist Allegra Stratton is pictured departing Downing Street

Friends of Miss Symonds (pictured with her dog Dilyn) hailed her for ending the 'macho culture' within No 10

Friends of Miss Symonds (pictured with her dog Dilyn) hailed her for ending the ‘macho culture’ within No 10

She went on Twitter to denounce it, saying: ‘Total load of c***. There has never been a happier, healthier and more loved dog than Dilyn.’

The dispute with Mr Cummings and Mr Cain flared when Miss Symonds apparently asked Mr Cain to make a formal complaint to The Times via the press watchdog, IPSO. 

He refused to do so, pointing out that a Covid crisis meeting was about to take place in No 10 that day. Miss Symonds is understood to have contacted officials in Mr Johnson’s office and told them to scrap the coronavirus meeting because she wanted the Prime Minister to help her pursue her complaint with The Times.

When Mr Cummings found out, sources said, he stormed in to Mr Johnson’s office and told him to go ahead with the meeting – which took place as planned.

An insider claimed: ‘We were dealing with the extraordinary chaos of Covid, and Carrie f***** the (PM’s Downing Street) private office up for a whole day. All over something trivial about her dog.

‘She went bananas and spent the day on the phone to officials and the PM trying to force the Government machine to IPSO (send a formal complaint to the watchdog) The Times over it.’

This weekend the departure of Mr Cummings and Mr Cain was welcomed by many Tory MPs who believed volatile Mr Cummings had become too powerful.

Mr Johnson was furious at claims that Miss Symonds’ Tory foes have dubbed his fiancee and mother of his son ‘Princess Nut Nut’.

But many senior Conservatives have voiced concern at the apparent level of influence Miss Symonds has over Mr Johnson both politically and personally.

Miss Symonds, former head of Tory communications, has strong views on issues from the environment to early parole for rapists.

A close ally of Miss Symonds said: ‘Surely it is in the Prime Minister’s interest that he hears from a range of people.

‘What man wouldn’t ask their informed partner for their opinion on something to do with work?’ But a No 10 figure claimed Miss Symonds ‘bombards [Mr Johnson] with texts and everyone in Downing Street knows about their rows.

Dominic Cummings leaves No 10

Communications chief Lee Cain

The shocking allegations came after the departure of Dominic Cummings (left) and communications chief Lee Cain (right)

‘I used to get angry with him for letting her get away with it, but now I just feel sorry. He looks very unhappy. It is as though she has taken him hostage. It cannot go on because it is terrible for our country.’

The appointment of Allegra Stratton as Mr Johnson’s official No 10 TV spokesman was a key factor in the turmoil that has engulfed the top of Government.

Insiders say that the Whitehall interview panel in charge of the appointment recommended another candidate.

However, Mr Johnson allegedly said: ‘Forget the process. I am giving the job to Allegra. I’ve got to do this because if I don’t, Carrie will go f****** crackers about it.’

An official said: ‘Allegra didn’t even know about Carrie’s intervention. But it could rebound on him (Johnson). The Whitehall paper trail will show the truth; that he went totally against the official recommendation of the interview panel – and he will have to explain why.’

Tory critics of Miss Symonds claim her allies are now gunning for Chancellor Rishi Sunak because he ‘does not let outsiders interfere’ in the Treasury.

They say she has urged Mr Johnson to recall Mr Sunak’s predecessor Sajid Javid. Miss Symonds is a former aide to Mr Javid, and the two have remained close allies.

A source said: ‘Rishi won’t put up with outside interference and insists things are done by the book. She wants Javid back as a counter to Rishi.

‘Tory MPs are celebrating Cummings’ and Cain’s downfall but they may think again when they see how this has been manipulated by Carrie who has an agenda no one voted for.’

Mr Cummings told the Mail last night: ‘I’ve nothing bad to say about Carrie, I wish her well.’       

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk