Bitter Tory in-fighting broke out last night after a Conservative-friendly think-tank demanded an inquiry into the power of Boris Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds.
Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group – which boasts Tory heavyweights Norman Tebbit and Norman Lamont among its patrons – called for an independent investigation into the influence that Ms Symonds exerts in Downing Street.
Allies hit back to insist that it was normal for a Prime Minister to consult his partner, not least because Ms Symonds is a former director of communications for the Tory Party.
And senior Tory MP Sir John Redwood, another of the think-thank’s patrons, disowned the Bow Group’s intervention, dismissing it as a ‘very bad idea’. He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The PM is responsible for who advises him and he is quite entitled to take advice from anybody he likes.’
Allies hit back to insist that it was normal for a Prime Minister to consult his partner, not least because Ms Symonds is a former director of communications for the Tory Party. Pictured, Boris Johnson and Ms Symonds in December 2019
The Bow Group – which claims to be Britain’s oldest conservative think-tank – called for a ‘judicial review and Government inquiry’ into Ms Symonds’s ‘unelected and unaccountable’ role.
Mr Harris-Quinney said an urgent inquiry was needed because the PM’s partner ‘holds no official role in the Conservative Party or the Government, yet consistent reports in the press suggest that Ms Symonds is taking a central role in running the country, without any authority or accountability’.
The public takes a very dim view of cronyism
Some Tory MPs privately said that the Bow Group was only expressing what many colleagues felt about Ms Symonds’ undue influence at No 10.
But others claimed that Mr Harris-Quinney held a grudge against Ms Symonds since she played a key role when he faced calls to be suspended from the party because of his alleged views on homosexuality.
In 2015 he was branded a ‘homophobe’ over his opposition to gay marriage and sparked a complaint about him from Iain Dale, then a writer on the independent Conservative Home blog.
The Bow Group report cited claims that Ms Symonds has played a role in the appointment of her friend Nimco Ali to a Government job, and helped to force out key No 10 aides Dominic Cummings, Lee Cain and Oliver Lewis over recent months.
Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group – which boasts Tory heavyweights Norman Tebbit (left) and Norman Lamont (right) among its patrons – called for an independent investigation into the influence that Ms Symonds exerts in Downing Street
Carrie’s critics say the appointment of her best friend Nimco Ali to a government job shows her ‘undue’ influence in No 10. Pictured together
Senior Tory MP Sir John Redwood, another of the think-thank’s patrons, disowned the Bow Group’s intervention, dismissing it as a ‘very bad idea’
Mr Harris-Quinney added: ‘She has not been elected, she has not been appointed, she holds no legal or constitutional powers to make decisions relating to who should hold government posts.’ He insisted that ‘the public takes a very dim view of cronyism… and no one should be running our country without accountability to the people’.
Some critics say the shock resignation of Downing Street aide Mr Lewis on Friday was only the latest example of what is claimed to be Ms Symonds’s growing power, with members of the Vote Leave faction supplanted by her friends.
Mr Lewis, Mr Cummings’s most senior remaining ally in Downing Street, quit last week amid reports he had been wrongly accused by Ms Symonds and the PM of briefing against Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.
Best friend got plum job
Carrie’s critics say the appointment of her best friend Nimco Ali to a government job shows her ‘undue’ influence in No 10.
It emerged last year that Ms Ali, left with Carrie, was given a role as a Home Office adviser on tackling violence against women, without the post being advertised. The two-day-a-month job paid £350 a day.
The move sparked claims that the job may have been created for Ms Ali, 38, a campaigner against female genital mutilation. She is also godmother to Wilfred, Miss Symonds’ son with the Prime Minister.
However, Ms Ali, who came to Britain as a refuge from Somalia when she was four, was Boris’s friend first – the pair worked together when he was London Mayor. She has also praised the PM as a ‘real feminist’.
The Home Office has defended her recruitment as ‘appropriate for short-term advisory roles… to champion a specific subject’.
One former Minister said last night that the Bow Group was only asking questions that many fellow Tory MPs were asking over what exactly was going on at No 10.
He said: ‘My suspicion is that Oliver Lewis is the victim of Carrie’s favouritism for Henry Newman. But he’s an extraordinarily bright man and very highly regarded in the party. He worked so well with [Brexit negotiator] David Frost so it’s not good to see them separated.’ Mr Harris-Quinney said last night that the think-tank had decided of its own volition to call for the inquiry. But he claimed that some Tory MPs were worried that the No 10 intrigue was a ‘detriment’ to retaining their seats. ‘They are concerned about how this looks and how Carrie Symonds in particular does not play well in their constituencies,’ he said.
He denied that he had a grudge against Ms Symonds or that he had made homophobic remarks. He also insisted he was no longer a Tory member in 2015.
Calls for an inquiry into Ms Symonds’s influence focused yesterday on the issue of whether she had a pivotal role in hiring and firing at No 10. But some MPs are also worried over her impact on Government policies.
She is famously passionate about nature conservation and animal welfare, sparking suggestions that, aged just 32, she may feel better connected to younger voters than her partner. Last month there were suggestions that she had a ‘significant impact’ on the decision to phase out the controversial cull of Britain’s badgers.
The move came despite fears from the National Farmers’ Union that it would hit efforts to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis.
Miss Symonds is patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Association.
Sexist old dinosaurs who are afraid of intelligent women: A passionate riposte by KATIE HIND who knows and admires Carrie Symonds
By Katie Hind for the Mail On Sunday
We’ve all heard the dumb blonde jokes, and the sexism that goes with them. Sprinkle a spot of intellect, ambition and charm into the mix and it ramps up things for those of the male race who are feeling particularly embittered with their lot. Just ask Carrie Symonds – she knows quite a lot about this.
Because, for the past three months, I believe that she has been on the receiving end of misogyny which has been engineered by two men who are far more famous than they should be – Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain.
Until last November, they were the puppet masters of the Tory Party. They sadly epitomise the old-school values of traditionally white, male Conservatives.
Carrie’s crime, is quite clear – she got in the way of the Brexit Boys who thought they could have it all their way. Three months after they were given their marching orders by Boris Johnson, she is still paying for it.
Katie Hind: For the past three months, I believe that she has been on the receiving end of misogyny which has been engineered by two men who are far more famous than they should be – Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain
Livid that she had dared to air an opinion about their performance, a raft of vicious stories ensued, blaming her for their exit and stirring up rumour that she was abusing the power that comes with being the PM’s partner – all because they’re annoyed that they don’t rule the roost any longer.
I’m told Carrie has no regrets, which must be irritating for the ousted duo. ‘Along with others, Carrie thought there was a need for a more diverse group of voices around Boris,’ says one well-placed associate.
The fact she is one of them must hurt. A lot.
Many will also recall the emergence of a particularly horrid nickname allegedly used by allies of Mr Cummings: ‘Princess Nut Nut’. The sooner that sort of thing goes away, the better.
And now Carrie is being attacked by another resentful bunch, the Bow Group think-tank, which is equally as irked with her very existence in Downing Street.
Headed up by the questionable Ben Harris-Quinney, it has called for an independent investigation into the influence she has within No 10’s corridors of power.
Katie Hind (pictured) knows Ms Symonds
THAT’S right, like Cummings and Cain, Harris-Quinney seemingly can’t bear the idea that he doesn’t have any power either, so he’s gone after the pretty blonde with a penchant for a colourful, nice frock.
While both of these boys’ clubs – which surely would feel much more at home at a US college frat gathering – think they are being all rather clever, the truth is what they are doing is all really quite transparent.
These are misogynistic Tory men who are afraid of clever women, fearful of those who are successful in whichever field they happen to be in.
Carrie, for her sins, is an expert in politics and holds the coveted role of being the Prime Minis-ter’s confidante – a position these men would give their right arm, and maybe the left too, to have.
She is also extremely well connected in Westminster circles, and very driven, as her victory to keep taxi driver rapist John Worboys in prison following a call for parole in 2018 proves.
She is also a lover of animals and the environment, and last year successfully campaigned for supermarkets to stop selling Thai coconut products procured with monkey slave labour.
Instead, Carrie is painted as the meddler. The truth be told, they would all far rather Carrie didn’t have a brain, that she was more the old-fashioned kind of eye candy – the type who is seen and not heard.
This all smacks of a syndrome that is as old as the hills – blaming the woman for men’s failings and inadequacies.
In fact, it dates right back to the Roman Empire. As recently pointed out by historian Mary Beard who cited Augustus’ wife Livia, who was the scapegoat for all of the controversial or unpopular decisions that were made. She was also blamed for any suspicious disappearances. More recently, it has been seen with the likes of Nancy Reagan and Cherie Blair, though notably not with Denis Thatcher nor Philip May.
Carrie is painted as the meddler. The truth be told, they would all far rather Carrie didn’t have a brain, that she was more the old-fashioned kind of eye candy
While as women we do strive to be treated equally, we must consider Carrie’s position.
Just a little over two years ago, most of the British population had no idea of her existence. She worked merely as a communications executive, albeit around the Tory Party.
AFTER her relationship with Boris was revealed, she received the most horrid sexism, so much so that a cross-party of female MPs and journalists wrote an open letter to fight against it over fears it would discourage talented women from entering politics and the media. While the inclination for change was there, it did little good. Let’s remember, though, that Carrie is a woman who has been thrust into the limelight.
She is practically an A-lister who has had to deal with being one of the most famous people in the country.
Yet the reality is she is a new mother with a young baby adjusting to a return to work to pursue her own career in animal welfare at the Aspinall Foundation.
So to blame Carrie is nothing more than a smokescreen to divert attention from the real villains. Cummings, Cain and their ilk. She’s just a scapegoat.
And her male enemies know only too well that she doesn’t have a voice to respond. Nor does her beloved dog Dilyn.
One person who knows her well tells me: ‘Carrie and the dog are being briefed against as they are the ones who can’t answer back.
‘It would be undignified for her to say anything as the Prime Minister’s partner – and the dog, of course, well, he quite literally can’t speak.’
So here’s a novel idea… let’s stop looking at the woman and focus on the men.