IT seems 10 Downing Street is unhappy that everyone’s talking about Carrie this week, so what better time to talk about her, the influence Mrs Johnson may or may not have over the worst Prime Minister in British history, and the depths of corruption to which her husband will stoop?

It did not take eagle-eyed readers to spot that The Times had dropped a story from yesterday’s paper which claimed that when he was Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson tried to have his then girlfriend installed as his chief of staff. At the time she was his secret girlfriend, as he was still married to Marina Wheeler, but it appears some within Number 10 had learned about the relationship. Hopefully whoever learned this by walking in on them in an “uncompromising position” has recovered from the trauma.

According to Lord Ashcroft, who first aired this claim in his book, First Lady: Intrigue At The Court Of Carrie And Boris Johnson, Carrie Symonds had already had a crack at securing a job close to Johnson. He claimed she had her eye on the special adviser role that went to Vote Leave’s Lee Cain – whom she is widely credited with blocking from becoming Johnson’s chief of staff once he was PM.

The timeline offered by Ashcroft’s account suggests Johnson’s idea was shot down because the 29-year-old was woefully unqualified for the role, with staff only later learning why Johnson was suddenly so keen to create the £100,000-a-year role and put her in it. However, the Times report by journalist Simon Walters claimed it was rejected by his clued-up allies because it would have been a “flagrant abuse of ethics”. Oh, such innocent days! Imagine believing that flagrant abuses of ethics were anything to worry about. I bet these allies imagined ethics advisors were essential too, and couldn’t simply be forced out then not replaced.

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Carrie Johnson’s spokesperson has said the claim about the job is “not true”, although it’s not clear why they were asked about matters of Number 10 recruitment, and conveniently the PM’s own spokesperson said he couldn’t comment on what went on when Johnson was Foreign Secretary but that “others have made clear this story is untrue”. Who else was asked to weigh in? Dilyn the dog? They expect us to be reassured by the fact that Johnson did not speak personally to the deputy editor of The Times to ask for the story to be spiked. Of course he didn’t – what would be the point of hiring a load of his wife’s friends if none of them could be called upon to pick up a telephone from time to time?

Some may find it easy to dismiss the tittle-tattle about the extent of Mrs Johnson’s influence over her husband, to whom cronyism, corruption and underhand behaviour seems to come naturally. It doesn’t help that one of the main sources of briefings against her is Dominic Cummings, hardly the most impartial or trustworthy source. He claims that not only is the story about the Foreign Office job true, but that Johnson tried again in 2020 to get his wife a government job (the PM’s spokesperson said: “Again my understanding is that claim is also untrue but these claims have been reported before and denied.” Note the more carefully chosen words).

Sources who spoke to Lord Ashcroft were firm in their belief that Carrie was undoing their plans once her husband got home and shared them with her, and even that she could be heard whispering prompts to him during telephone meetings. But again, this assumes Johnson needs help flip-flopping and U-turning, which other sources would dispute. He has a reputation for spinning like a weather vane between meetings, nodding along with whoever he is speaking to at any given moment only to agree with a different approach minutes later.

Some Tories are quick to counter suggestions of Carrie Johnson’s meddling with cries of sexism. But why would it be sexist to suggest that a Prime Minister’s wife may have political ambitions of her own, rather than being content with a turning-up-and-smiling role? She may not be Lady Macbeth but she clearly wishes to be seen as an effective strategic operator, and why wouldn’t she? The job market clearly isn’t proving as easy to crack as she’d hoped, so she may soon be looking to call in favours from those she helped slot into plum roles.

The departure of her foe Cummings in November 2020 was celebrated with a lockdown-breaking party in Downing Street that went on into the early hours. The Mirror claims Carrie took legal advice before submitting her completed questionnaire to the Metropolitan Police, and avoided a fine by stating that the event was a strategy meeting. One might ask why the Prime Minister’s wife – unelected and, despite their attempts, not employed in any Downing Street role – would have been present at such a meeting and how exactly blasting Abba’s The Winner Takes It All from the speakers formed part of the strategy planning.

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That song is, of course, about a relationship break-up that leaves one party “standing small” and the other victorious. Perhaps the PM should take it as a warning ...