NOTE: This story has been updated, in line with the shifting position from Number 10. Changes in italics.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
is was to sue The New European over our exclusive story that he told a room full of Telegraph journalists he was experiencing “buyer’s remorse” over married life with Carrie Symonds. But has since changed his mind.
A Number 10 Downing Street press officer, who later repeatedly refused to confirm his name but we understand it to be Downing Street Director of Communications Jack Doyle, called The New European editor-in-chief Matt Kelly at 10.30pm on Thursday night announcing that the story was untrue, defamatory, and that the Prime Minister is taking legal action against the newspaper.
“The Prime Minister did not make this remark. The allegation is untrue and defamatory,” the spokesman said via a subsequent text message, once again refusing to confirm his identity.
The New European continues to stand by our story. And our story about the story.
13:30 Friday update:
Downing Street Press Office now telling journalists they do not intend to take legal action after all. A statement from The New European editor-in-chief Matt Kelly is as follows:
“I was called last night (Thursday) at 10.30pm by a man who identified himself as being from Downing Street Communications office, but whose name I didn’t catch. His opening gambit was: Boris Johnson is going to sue The New European for defamation.
“I won’t go into the rest of the conversation in detail, but suffice to say I made it clear to him that this was not a threat that troubled me greatly and we stood by our story.
“After a few minutes, the caller eventually told me: ‘You just crack on then mate’ and put the phone down.
“I texted him, asking him to repeat his threat of legal action and to send across the Downing Street denial. I also asked him – twice – to identify himself, which he refused to do.
“For a public official to cold-call a newspaper and threaten them with a law suit from a sitting PM, and not to even identify himself, was, I thought, odd. I tried the Downing Street press office to verify the caller’s identity, but they didn’t come back to me. I went to bed.
“The next morning, I established that the phone number of the caller belonged to Jack Doyle, the Downing Street Director of Communications.
“I now understand Downing Street denies they threatened legal action, to which all I can say is I stand by our story, and our story about the story. If Boris Johnson changes his mind again and decides to sue, we’ll see him in court.
“Should the veracity of this account be challenged, I do, of course, have the texts.”
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