Boris Johnson fails to deny he offered his lover Carrie Symonds a top job

Growing calls for probe into allegation that prime minister was stopped from making his future wife his chief of staff

Boris Johnson fails to deny he offered Carrie Symonds top job

Boris Johnson has failed to deny that he tried to offer his lover Carrie Symonds a top government job while foreign secretary.

The prime minister was challenged in the House of Commons over reports that he raised the idea of appointing her to the £100,000-a-year job of chief of staff at the Foreign Office in 2018.

There has been no denial from Downing Street that the PM had to be talked out of the plans by aides, and Mr Johnson’s decision to dodge the question at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons is likely to be seen by many as an effective confirmation of the reports.

There is growing pressure for an inquiry into the claims that Mr Johnson repeatedly pressed for Ms Symonds to be picked for the taxpayer-funded job at the Foreign Office.

But there is no-one to carry out the probe – after his ethics adviser quit last week, over what Christopher Geidt alleged was a separate plan which would breach the ministerial code.

Meanwhile, it has been alleged and not denied that as prime minister in 2020, Mr Johnson suggested that Carrie - by then his wife - could take a senior environmental role linked to the COP26 climate change summit or the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Earthshot Prize.

Reports suggest that he wanted Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, who had previously been Prince William’s private secretary, to “take soundings”. But advisers were said to have vetoed both suggestions, warning either position could undermine his wife’s status as a private citizen.

In the Commons, the Labour MP Chris Elmore asked Mr Johnson: “Has he ever considered the appointment of his current spouse to a government post or to any organisation in one of the royal households?

Mr Elmore added: “Be honest prime minister – yes or no?”

But the prime minister evaded the question, saying: “I know why the party opposite wants to talk about non-existent jobs in the media because they don’t want to talk about what’s going on in the real world.”

Sir Keir Starmer pounced on his failure to answer, telling MPs to laughter: “If I ever need advice - let’s say on a £100,000 job at the Foreign Office - I will ask him for a recommendation”.

A senior spokesperson for the Labour leader later confirmed he regarded the PM’s failure to engage with Mr Elmore’s question as an effective confirmation of the accuracy of the claims. “It was a total non-denial from the prime minister in PMQs,” he said.

Downing Street has repeatedly refused to answer questions about the controversy since the allegation was made at the weekend.

Instead, the PM’s official spokesperson referred reporters to statements from Ms Johnson’s spokesperson, who described the Foreign Office story as “untrue” and said the suggestion that the PM’s wife was considered for jobs at COP26 or the Earthshot Prize was “as untrue now as it was then”.

No 10 sources were unable to explain today how Ms Johnson, as a private citizen, had obtained confidential information about internal government discussions on recruitment to taxpayer-funded posts.

The PM’s press secretary said only that the prime minister “has never recommended Mrs Johnson for a government role or one as part of the Earthshot Prize”, but declined to say whether her possible appointment was ever discussed with aides.

Downing Street has also stalled on replacing Lord Geidt, leaving a vacancy which means there is no watchdog to police alleged breaches of the code laid down for all ministers.

A former Foreign Office minister, Alan Duncan, said he was told that Ms Symonds – then in charge of communications at Conservative party headquarters (CCHQ) – was being lined up for a special adviser role in the department.

“For someone slightly unproven who knew nothing about foreign affairs to come straight out of CCHQ and into the Foreign Office was rather noticeable,” he said.

The chair of the Commons standards committee, Chris Bryant, has called for the “paper trail” behind the controversy to be published.

“It is manifestly corrupt to appoint your lover as a Spad [special adviser],” he wrote on Twitter.

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