Downing Street admits pressuring The Times to drop explosive Carrie Johnson story

Downing Street has admitted that members of the Prime Minister's team intervened before an explosive story about his wife Carrie Johnson was withdrawn from publication in The Times.

10 Downing Street

Downing Street has admitted that members of the Prime Minister’s team intervened before an explosive story about his wife Carrie Johnson was withdrawn from publication in The Times.

It denied however that Boris Johnson had personally intervened to ask for the story to be removed, which reported claims that Johnson had tried to hire his now wife as his chief of staff when he was foreign secretary on a 100k a year salary.

The piece, written by veteran journalist Simon Walters, claimed that Johnson tried to appoint his now-wife Carrie as his £100,000-a-year chief of staff while he was foreign secretary in 2018, however the story was taken down hours after being printed on Saturday, causing lots of head-scratching over the weekend.

The story was withdrawn without any explanation and nor was the article ever published on the Times’ website. The MailOnline, which also picked up the story, deleted its copy too.

Initial claims about Johnson attempting to hire Carrie to a senior role had already been made by Michael Ashcroft in his biography of Carrie who had alleged that Johnson had tried to appoint her to a £100,000-a-year government job when he was foreign secretary in 2018.

However, Johnson’s wish was never realised after opposition from some of his closest advisers. Carrie Johnson has categorically rejected the claims saying that they were ‘totally untrue’.

In the Times story, Walters quoted one of Johnson’s senior foreign office staffers as saying: “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 and we knew what was going on between them, and it would have been an insane risk to let him do it.”

The New European reports that the Daily Mail was also offered the story but that ‘it turned it down, with the tipster being told it didn’t accord with the newspaper’s “general point of view”.

Walters however is standing by his story, telling 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.”

Dominic Cummings tweeted last night that the story “is true” and that the PM also wanted to give Carrie a government job during the third quarter of 2020, claims that Downing Street has denied.

Reacting to Downing Street’s latest admission, Jo Maugham, director of the Good Law Project tweeted: “Telling, that the denials are coming from Carrie when the allegations are primarily about Johnson. Is the plan to try and give the impression of a denial without actually having to deny them for fear of hard evidence emerging?”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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