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Lord Ashcroft is no stranger to penning books which get under the skin of the political establishment. But his latest venture on the “undue” influence of Carrie Johnson has hit a nerve.
George Osborne, the former Chancellor and ex-editor of the Evening Standard, has branded extracts from First Lady: Intrigue at the Court of Carrie and Boris Johnson “misogynistic Lady Macbeth nonsense”.
The upcoming biography of the Prime Minister’s wife, written by the former Conservative Party deputy chairman Ashcroft, is being serialised in the Mail on Sunday and voices frustration from ex-aides that her behaviour is preventing Boris Johnson “from leading Britain as effectively as the voters deserve”. That is a polite way of putting it.
Carrie is accused in the book of “impersonating” her husband by sending texts on his behalf to allies. That is nothing. It is said that when American Jennifer Arcuri, Shakespeare expert and a former flame of the PM, tried to get hold of Boris by phone and he didn’t want to speak he impersonated a person running a Chinese laundry to get her off the line.
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The Ashcroft book presents Carrie as a political player, always interfering with affairs of state. She allegedly briefed a confused Boris – telling him what to think and say – as he spoke on the phone during his successful 2019 leadership bid. She is also accused of influencing the Prime Minister over the evacuation of Pen Farthing’s animals from the Nowzad charity from Kabul.
Sarah Vine, ex-wife of Michael Gove and columnist for the Mail on Sunday, also took issue with the extracts at the weekend, saying the allegations are the “political equivalent of slut shaming” because the PM’s wife is not to blame for the chaos ensuing in government right now. Although towards the end of the article Vine did acknowledge that Carrie is a political player. If she is, then in a democracy some political scrutiny can be expected, no?
It’s not just journalists who have made their feelings clear on the matter of the Ashcroft book. Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, says the comments about Carrie are “sexist”, while Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has rejected claims Carrie has control over the inner workings of government. He’ll have got a thank you call from Number 10 for that one…
Ashcroft has hit back at critics and endorsed his own book: “Only a fraction of the book has been published so far. Taken as a whole, it is fair, objective and meticulously researched.”
Readers will have to wait until 29 March until the full picture of “Carrie Antoinette’s” position in Downing Street is revealed, when the book is published.