The PM was reportedly advised to cut short his first holiday in six months – which he briefly paused on Monday to discuss the exams fiasco with education secretary Gavin Williamson – by minders who believed the images put the couple at risk of sniper fire.
“They had been camping in the garden of the cottage but the security threat was too much,” a source told The Sun. “The tent could be spotted by a sniper from too far away for them to stay after the location was published.”
However, there appears to have been some confusion over where Mr Johnson pitched his tent.
A Scottish sheep farmer has alleged that the prime minister in fact camped overnight in his field without permission and left his police detail to clear up the leftover rubbish.
Kenny Cameron claimed that the prime minister climbed over a fence into his field, going on to erect an eight-foot tent and lighting a small campfire – pictures of which suggested Mr Johnson abandoned the charred remains as he hurriedly headed back to London.
Metropolitan Police officers were overhead by a MailOnline reporter apologising to Mr Cameron for the inconvenience, saying they had believed the field was part of their rented holiday cottage.
“We are going to take the tent down and clear away any rubbish,” the officers were reported as telling the farmer. Scotland Yard said it would not comment on matters of security.
“Mr Johnson is meant to be leading the country and yet he is not setting a great example,” Mr Cameron told the MailOnline. “Usually if people want to go inside a fenced area, they ask for permission first, but I was not asked at all. It is only polite to ask.
“He could have put up his tent in the garden of the cottage and there would have been no problem – but he didn’t do that. He could easily have damaged the fence by climbing over it as a short cut. There is a gate a little way up and they could have just used that.
He also expressed concerns that the prime minister had lit a fire.
“Having a bonfire is always a risk when you have dry weather. I know we had rain last night but it has been very dry,” Mr Cameron said.
Mr Cameron is reported to have gone to check on the field after a friend noticed the pictures on the front of the Daily Mail and informed him.
While he had not found any damage, he told the paper that he had feared the tent would be left to “blow away in the wind” and that he would have to clear up the fire.
Mr Johnson had resisted calls to return from the holiday with Ms Symonds and his young son, Wilfred, as universities grapple with the fallout from the government’s exams fiasco.
Meanwhile, coronavirus restrictions have been tightened in Blackburn and Oldham, as Whitehall officials said the latest data indicated a likely positive trend of infections in the country.
Downing Street was contacted for comment.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies