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The future for Carrie Johnson after ‘pressure cooker’ of Downing Street

‘Time to shine’ for prime minister’s wife as September exit day is announced

A new prime minister is due to be announced on 5 September, marking the final exit of Boris Johnson – and his wife Carrie – from Downing Street. 

“The fate of leaders is decided with ruthless speed and with it goes the fate of First Ladies,” said Anne McElvoy in Tatler magazine. Few have made such an impact in such a short time as Carrie Johnson, who has been “at the heart of the rollercoaster Boris story”.

Disregard for ‘good’ behaviour

In less than three years, she has got married, had two children, seen her partner hospitalised with Covid – and faced “more questions over her political influence than any predecessor in Downing Street since Cherie Blair”, said The Guardian

A “fundamental difficulty was that she was drawn into scandals that contributed to her husband’s downfall”, explained the paper – from the calls to investigate an alleged “victory party” after Dominic Cummings was pushed out, to the police fine for attending the PM’s birthday celebration.

Previously, “we had a succession of extremely well-behaved spouses”, said Rebecca Reid at the i news site. “By contrast, it’s hard to pick a favourite controversial thing about Carrie.”

The prime minister kisses his then girlfriend Carrie Symonds

The PM kisses his then girlfriend Carrie Symonds at the Conservative Party conference in 2019

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Reid’s “favourite act of total disregard for ‘good’ behaviour” was the “bonkers spending” on renovating the couple’s Downing Street apartment. Memes about their £840-a-roll Lulu Lytle wallpaper are still going strong. 

‘Prison’ of No. 10

“What a two years and 346 days,” said Alice Thomson in The Times. “And she’s still only 34.”

Friends say the “highlight of the relationship was their wedding day” last year, but Johnson has faced much vitriol and was called “everything from Lady Macbeth to Princess Nut Nut”. 

Carrie Symonds, holding her dog Dilyn

Carrie Symonds, holding her dog Dilyn, greets members of the armed forces at No. 10

John Nguyen - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Thomson noted that she was “looking after two small children in a confined space which must at times have felt very lonely”.

Indeed, insiders speaking to The Telegraph this week suggested the same. Downing Street “felt like a prison” and a “pressure cooker” for Johnson, they said. “They were right on top of the workplace, and you can’t leave that behind.”

Reinventing the Johnsons

Friends told The Telegraph that Johnson would continue her charity work after leaving No. 10 but was unlikely to resume her political career, having once been the Conservative Party’s head of communications.

There was speculation today that the PM was eyeing up a return to power in the future, like his hero Winston Churchill. But, The Guardian said: “Unlike her husband, Carrie Johnson leaves Downing Street with most of her career in front of her.” Like the outgoing PM, she will need to “reinvent herself given the turbulence and controversies of the previous three years”.

The Johnsons arrive in Rwanda

The Johnsons arrive in Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in June

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Thomson at The Times agreed that “now it’s her time to shine”. Boris can “potter around writing his Shakespeare book, looking after the children and being booked for rich men’s stag nights while you go out to work”, she wrote. “Maybe, one day, he can even be introduced as Carrie Symonds’s husband.”

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