The Sexist Headlines Around Carrie Symonds Influencer Over Boris Johnson Have ‘Witchcraft’ Vibes And It Needs To Stop

From 'Princess Nut Nut' to 'mad Queen', the headlines about Carrie Symonds power over Boris Johnson have gone too far.

Carrie Symonds Boris Johnson

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

'No 10 braces for an 'explosive stunt' by Cummings after 'Princess Nut Nuts' gave him coup de grace,' reads one headline. 'Dominic Cummings' friends say the "mad Queen will destroy the court"', states another. ‘How Boris's bullish state-educated "Scouser" Lee Cain and his "lad gang" clashed with Carrie and her well-heeled inner-circle in Downing Street's brutal civil war,' a third is titled.

These headlines, all of which came from the Daily Mail in the last week, are covering the reports of in-fighting within the Conservative party. Obvious tensions within the party have seen both Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain - director of communications and one of Boris Johnson’s closest aides - leave number 10. But there's a more sinister issue bubbling over: the rampant misogyny running wild in the tabloid press right now.

According to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, one of the reasons Cain was ousted was because his possible promotion to chief of staff was condemned by Carrie Symonds, as well as new press spokesperson Allegra Stratton and policy adviser Munira Mirza. Cummings departure was too 'accelerated by turmoil in No 10 in recent days', she said.

But what she also noted was that several MPs, minister and other government insiders had shown ‘consternation’ at the idea of Cain's promotion because of his prior role as press officer for the Vote Leave campaign. Right now, with post-Brexit trade negotiations on thin ice and communications more important than ever, the BBC reports that some inside number 10 were unsure of his potential increase in power. As a strong ally of Cummings, it's perhaps not surprising that he too chose to leave having worked together closely for so long.

And yet, despite Kuenssberg's explanation that many MPs are involved in the embroiling tension, the tabloids continue to lead with sexist headlines that Boris's trouble with the men stems having an apparent woman problem. Most notably, that Carrie Symonds is some sort of power hungry 'mad Queen' with unbound influence over the prime minister.

‘How the Carrie Symonds Crew beat the Boris bruiser in their game of chicken,’ read another Mail Online headline about Cain. ‘Boris’s women trouble’ a further, in bold on the homepage of the Mail Online, stated. Multiple stories, all on the UK’s second most popular news website with 12million average daily views, that are all vehemently sexist. And quite frankly, classist too – Cain being state-educated nor ‘scouse’ (which, let the record show, he is not – he’s from Ormskirk) has nothing to do with him being allegedly ‘bullish’ as the first headline implies.

Daily Mail headline
©Daily Mail

But back to the sexism, because that’s what’s truly pervasive in all of these headlines.

First of all, to imply that women in government banded together to oust Cain is not only sexist, it’s patronising. This isn’t Mean Girls, Stratton and Mirza are not trailing behind Symonds in triangle-formation, matching pink outfits on, ready to take down the man. If they did oppose Cain’s promotion, they are simply individual women with their own views offering their expert opinion on the suitability of Cain to do a job that would impact theirs. If three powerful men in government all opposed it, as well as other women and men in parliament, would headlines ever appear in the same way? Speaking to their ‘well-heeled’ shoes, no less?

In fact, that there are a number of women supposedly opposed Cain’s promotion doesn’t speak to any sort of ‘girl gang’, but simply an increase in the number of women in government – which we should be celebrating, not condemning in tabloids with headlines that make them appear manipulative or bullish.

But let's take a closer look at the crux of this issue: the vilification of Carrie Symonds. 'Princess Nut Nut' is, according to tabloids, Cummings nickname for Symonds. Referring to her as some sort of unstable, demanding child for months on end, the tabloids ran with the narrative.

What is Carrie Symonds' job?

Of course, there is merit in questioning Symonds’s influence given that she is both unelected and doesn't hold an official government role in any capacity, but as a political activist with extensive experience in Cain’s line of work, there’s no doubt she has insight Johnson can take on and make conclusions about of his own accord. If you're wondering where that insight comes from, as all those googling 'What is Carrie Symonds job?' are, she was one the Conservative party's press officer, briefly become the party's Head Of Communications. She also campaigned for Boris Johnson in the 2010 London Conservative Party mayoral selection and has worked MPs Sajid Javid (as a media special adviser) and John Whittingdale.

Currently, while she is said to be on maternity leave, Carrie Symonds job is as a senior advisor for ocean conservation charity Oceana. But quite frankly, that shouldn't matter.

Any politician is going to discuss their work with their partner whether their work is involved in politics or not, and given many of us are invested in politics or at least see government as having an influence over our lives, that partner is likely to have an opinion. Theresa May, for example, was known to rely on her husband Phillip for advice - and has an investment manager he arguably had dar less political experience than Symonds.

What does matter though, is said politicians ability to heed advice objectively, no matter who it's from. The least you can expect of a Prime Minister is for them to be able to hear a number of opinions from those closest to them, partners and all, and be able to make objective decisions that are best in favour of the country.

Headlines like the above have instigated a debate around how much influence Symonds has over Johnson. They use 'mad Queen' and the like to undermine her insight, while implying she has too much power over Johnson. As if he's just an innocent puppet at the mercy of his enchanting, mystical soon-to-be wife. But whether or not she does have too much influence over Johnson, and thus the government, is entirely a him problem.

Symonds is not magic, this is not witchcraft - as the current discourse seems to allude to - if she has too much power we should be asking whether Johnson is fit to lead if he's so easily influenced by his partner's opinions... not whether or not we should be limiting her freedom of expression, in private conversations with her partner no less.

That goes for the headlines about her apparently 'girl gang' too. Because just as the dissapointingly archaic narrative about Symonds spreads, the idea she's forming a posse of like-minded women set on burning Johnson's closest male aides further alludes to the 'WITCHCRAFT!!' vibes of this entire discourse,

These women should be allowed to express their expert opinions without being made out as calculated, ‘hen-pecking’ power-grabbers forming a 'girl gang' to take down men in power. And quite frankly, we shouldn't have to be shouting about this anymore.

Instead, we should probably be discussing the fact the Conservative party are awash with in-fighting at a time they should be focusing on, oh I don't know, the deadly pandemic and chaotic Brexit trade negotiations? Just a thought.

Read More:

How Is Carrie Symonds Handling Life In Downing Street?

Jess Phillips: 'Women In Politics Have Brought About Hope In A Time Of Turbulence'

Sexism, Pregnancy, Death Threats – What It's Like To Be A Woman In Westminster

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