Boris Johnson's former standards adviser is understood to believe allegations that the PM tried to hire his then-girlfriend Carrie to a senior Foreign Office post should be the subject of a formal probe.
Allegations that then-foreign secretary Johnson sought to bring in Carrie Symonds – who became Carrie Johnson when the two married last year, and who is mother to two of his children – as his chief of staff resurfaced at the weekend in The Times. Both Johnsons deny the allegations.
Christopher Geidt, who quit his role as independent adviser on ministers’ interests last week after complaining he had been placed in an “impossible and odious position”, made his thoughts known to the Daily Telegraph, the paper said.
The Telegraph, where Johnson made his name as an EU-bashing journalist, said Geidt believed the allegations that the PM sought to hire Carrie Symonds the Foreign and Commonwealth Office “could be ripe for investigation”.
Johnson was foreign secretary from July 2016 to July 2018, when he resigned over disagreements with then-prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy.
The Times story about the alleged would-be appointment, which appeared in some early editions of the newspaper, was the subject of some controversy over the weekend. The paper pulled the story from later editions without explanation.
No.10 has since confirmed that aides contacted the newspaper after the story was published, but denied that the prime minister had personally complained.
Following The Times story, the Mirror reported that Johnson had spoken to his advisers about getting his wife appointed to a post related to either the COP26 climate conference and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s environmental prize.
A spokesperson for Carrie Johnson said: “This is an old story which is as untrue now as it was then.”
Boris Johnson's spokesperson said the PM had "never recommended Mrs Johnson for a government role, or one as part of the Earthshot Prize", but did not deny that any conversations had taken place.
Government 'taking time to consider' standards adviser role
Downing Street has suggested that there could be a pause before the prime minister seeks a new independent adviser on ministers’ interests, who would be the third holder of the post in less than two years, and that changes could be made to the role itself.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner asked the government whether it was planning to abolish the post of independent adviser on ministers’ interests after its response to Geidt’s resignation.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis said today that the government was “taking time to consider how best to fulfil the prime minister’s commitment to ensuring rigorous oversight and scrutiny of ministerial interests”.
“The process of managing ministerial interests continues in line with the ministerial code, which sets out that the permanent secretary in the department and the Cabinet Office can provide advice and have a role in scrutinising interests,” he said.
Labour MPs are today due to force a vote on giving parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee control over the appointment of the independent adviser on ministerial interests.