ANNA MIKHAILOVA: Did Symonds insult kibosh Victoria Atkins's career?
ANNA MIKHAILOVA: Did calling Carrie Symonds a husband stealer kibosh rising star Victoria Atkins’s career?
Rising star Minister Victoria Atkins’s promising political career is feared to have hit the rocks after her stinging criticism of the Prime Minister’s fiancée was overheard in the Commons tea room
Rising star Minister Victoria Atkins’s promising political career is feared to have hit the rocks after her stinging criticism of the Prime Minister’s fiancée was overheard in the Commons tea room.
The high-flying Home Office minister is said to have observed that Carrie Symonds could not be trusted because she ‘stole another woman’s husband’, multiple sources told The Mail on Sunday.
It is understood that her barbed comment was made to a group of primarily female Tory MPs but were uttered so loudly that they were heard by others in the room.
Boris Johnson began his relationship with Ms Symonds in 2018 while married to Marina Wheeler, with whom he has four children. He finalised his divorce from the barrister last year.
Ms Atkins, once tipped for promotion to the Cabinet, is now fighting to stay in the Government after her remark was relayed to No10, where Westminster wags joke the ‘Court of Carrie Antoinette’ exerts undue influence.
‘She has kiboshed her own career,’ said one source who was in the room when the comment was made. ‘The impact of this is very severe. Carrie’s circle take everything incredibly personally.’
The daughter of Tory MP Sir Robert Atkins, Victoria Atkins was the first of the 2015 intake to be promoted into government. However, criticising Mr Johnson during the leadership contest, where she backed Sajid Javid, has seen her career stall at junior minister level.
Her incendiary comments, made to MPs in the members’ tea room late last year, are now likely to dash any hopes of a more senior job in Mr Johnson’s administration.
The high-flying Home Office minister is said to have observed that Carrie Symonds could not be trusted because she ‘stole another woman’s husband’, multiple sources told The Mail on Sunday
A reshuffle is expected later this year. Two allies of Ms Symonds, health minister Nadine Dorries and backbencher Theo Clarke, have been tipped for promotion.
A source said Ms Atkins made the comment during a ‘jovial’ discussion in the tea room.
It prompted another female Tory MP to allege that Ms Symonds quit her job as head of communications at Tory HQ in a row over expenses, the source added. Ms Symonds is viewed disparagingly by several women MPs, the source went on. ‘Carrie always tries to play this “put-upon woman” part over the way the press treats her. A lot of the other MPs don’t like it.’
Meanwhile a Government source, also familiar with the comment, said: ‘That wasn’t the first time she has said something similar.’
But allies of Ms Atkins last night denied she made the comment.
And a spokesman for Ms Symonds said: ‘Carrie is and always has been a huge supporter of women in the Conservative Party, including Victoria. Carrie has no role in Government and it is untrue to suggest that she would play any part in Ms Atkins’s promotion or otherwise. ’
Ms Symonds’s allies have been trying to ‘rally the troops’ around her to counter the ‘combination of jealousy and misogyny’ aimed at her, The Mail on Sunday has been told. Efforts, which began before Easter, were stepped up after the Prime Minister’s ex-chief aide Dominic Cummings launched his blistering attack on his former boss, with several barbs also directly aimed at Ms Symonds.
A Government source last night described the attack as ‘horrible old-fashioned sexism. No one ever said Philip May had too much power, or Denis Thatcher.’
Meanwhile a Government source, also familiar with the comment, said: ‘That wasn’t the first time she has said something similar.’ But allies of Ms Atkins last night denied she made the comment
Mr Cummings’s attack came after months of stories about the Prime Minister’s fiancée, an onslaught described by sources as ‘relentless, day after day, looking for things to attack her on’.
Another insider said: ‘I do think it is becoming so transparent that this is a vendetta. It’s a combination of jealousy and misogyny.’ The source singled out particularly ‘horrible’ reports that ‘Carrie has got a problem with women’.
Another source claimed the ‘final straw’ was a story suggesting Ms Symonds had reduced members of her staff to tears. ‘This story in particular really upset Carrie as they simply didn’t recognise the details,’ the source said.
‘Those close to Boris believe the situation hasn’t been helped by the fact that since he became PM, Carrie has not been able to develop a forward-facing public role.
‘As a result, people haven’t really got to know her and the role she plays and wants to play in contributing to public life. She’s an incredibly important sounding board to Boris and has been a huge support to him during the toughest year of his political life.
‘The Prime Minister has demanded the tide is turned somehow because he is concerned about what he regards as the constant attacks on his partner.’
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