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Mandrake: Carrie Johnson could receive ‘first lady’ status

There is no official recognition for the prime minister's wife, and Boris Johnson 'wants to fix that'.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Carrie Johnson in the garden of 10 Downing Street after their wedding - Credit: PA

Her friendship with Christmas guest Nimco Ali may have generated unwelcome scrutiny, but I hear Boris Johnson has plans to invest his wife Carrie with official first lady-style status.

“There is no official recognition of the PM’s spouse and he wants to fix that,” one Whitehall insider tells me. “The other halves of prime ministers have always had to make do as best they can in No.10, in sharp contrast to their counterparts in the White House, where first ladies are assisted by taxpayer-funded staff in the office of the first lady, headquartered in the east wing of the White House.”

It’s unclear if Johnson wants to see Carrie, pictured, compensated for her “official” duties – even American first ladies are unremunerated – but she already commands an estimated salary of around £80,000-a-year as communications director of the animal charity, the Aspinall Foundation.

Carrie is seen as a force to be reckoned with in Downing Street, but an article in the American Harper’s magazine by Lara Prendergast, executive editor of The Spectator, makes the point that “any attempt to scrutinise her growing political influence is deemed misogynistic”. It suggested her influence over policy-making was real enough, even if she was “unelected and, in many ways, unaccountable”.

In 1990, when John Major was elected prime minister, his wife Norma conscientiously attended to all her correspondence herself, until she was eventually prevailed upon to take on a secretary, which she fretted about because of the cost to the taxpayer. She’d even in the early days of her husband’s government take the Tube to meetings and lunches.

Bad bet
Spare a thought for Lord Harris of Peckham – the former Carpetright boss – who saw fit to stump up tens of thousands of pounds in donations to Michael Gove’s office. There was £10,000 in March last year, a further £15,000 in July, and, in February this year, another £10,000.

There had been feverish talk during those days of Gove taking over from Boris Johnson, but Sarah Vine’s estranged husband now languishes at 15th place in the ConservativeHome cabinet popularity poll of party members. Harris hasn’t stumped up a penny since, and he must be regretting not taking a punt instead on Liz Truss, who now stands at number one in the poll, or Rishi Sunak at number two.

Still, Gove went on to pocket £100,000 from the British-German property developer Zachariasz “Zak” Gertler in two tranches, but even he hasn’t put up any more cash since August. A lot of Gove’s power had hinged on his closeness to Rupert Murdoch, but, since the media tycoon turned 90, there’s a realisation that’s a very perishable commodity.

Poor suckers
Mandrake wonders if Joan Collins is quite the poster gal for Brexit that she once was.

In an interview to promote her “unapologetic” diaries, the actress signally failed to read the room when she opined: “It’s not wrong to want to have a good time, it’s what we all deserve as people. For people to say ‘oh, we all have to suffer, we’re suffering, food prices are going up, there are no lorry drivers,  we’re not going to have any heating during the winter’, well, you can’t all sit around and suffer.

“I believe that life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

See inside the 21 October: Hot Air? edition

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