Boris Johnson and former Tory PR chief Carrie Symonds are preparing to go public with their relationship, according to reports.
The former foreign secretary announced in September that he was divorcing his second wife, barrister Marina Wheeler, “swiftly thrusting the MP’s intimate relationship with Symonds into the spotlight”, says The Sunday Times.
The pair are believed to have hosted a champagne and canape party just before New Year’s Eve. “At one point, guests saw Boris drape himself around Carrie before leaning in for a kiss,” claims The Sun on Sunday, which yesterday published photographs showing Symonds “cheekily tweaking the ex-foreign secretary’s bottom in the street”.
A friend of the alleged couple told the newspaper that they are “incredibly happy together” and that “the plan is to ‘come out’ at an official Conservative Party function towards the end of next month”.
With Johnson widely expected to run for prime minister if Theresa May is ousted, Symonds has already been nicknamed “Flotus”, “as in ‘First Lady of the United States’, the acronym used by White House staffers for the president’s wife”, says the Daily Mail.
So who is Symonds and how did she meet Johnson?
Daughter of The Independent co-founder Matthew Symonds and Josephine Mcaffee, one of the newspaper’s lawyers, she grew up in southwest London and attended the private Godolphin and Latymer School.
“Gregarious, intelligent, ambitious, strong-minded and attractive”, Symonds “quickly made a name for herself” after graduating with a first-class honours degree in theatre studies and history of art from Warwick University, says the Mail.
She joined Conservative HQ as a press officer in 2009 and first met Johnson three years later when she was seconded to work on his London mayor re-election campaign, later becoming director of communications at Conservative Campaign headquarters.
“Eyebrows were raised” last March when social media posts revealed that Johnson, and his colleagues Michael Gove and Sajid Javid, had attended her “alcohol-fuelled 30th birthday bash”, says The Daily Telegraph.
A former Downing Street aide told the paper: “The feeling inside No. 10 at the time was very much along the lines of: ‘What on Earth were they doing there?’ Did they regularly turn up at children’s parties? It seemed very odd indeed.”
Symonds has since quit the Tory HQ and taken up a role with Bloomberg, leading the media giant’s ecological initiative Vibrant Oceans, while Johnson is said to be “so enamoured of his new girlfriend that he wants to make her his third wife”, says The Sunday Times.
“As well he might,” as the Mail notes, “because should Boris ever succeed in a leadership bid to replace Theresa May, how else would Carrie Symonds fit into his future life at No. 10?”