A good friend of Boris Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds has been accused of leaking government plans for a second coronavirus lockdown last year in Dominic Cummings’ explosive attack on the prime minister.
Johnson’s former top aide alleged that the prime minister had been told that “all the evidence” pointed to special adviser Henry Newman, whom he described as a “chatty rat”. Newman, who has since moved to No 10, was an adviser at the Cabinet Office at the time of the leak last year.
Cummings claimed Johnson was “very upset” at the incident implicating Newman, as it would cause “very serious problems” with Symonds if the adviser were fired because the pair were “best friends”. He alleged that the prime minister wanted to cancel the inquiry into the leak for this reason.
No 10 has denied the accusations, stating on Friday night: “The PM has never interfered in a government leak inquiry.”
But who is Henry Newman?
A former protege of Michael Gove, Newman previously worked on Cummings’ Vote Leave campaign in the run-up to the Brexit referendum.
Now a senior adviser to Johnson, his elevation earlier this year was considered to have been influenced by Symonds, who once reportedly described him as one of her “favourite people”.
Newman began his career working in Whitehall under David Cameron during the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition era, rising through the ranks of special advisers.
He went on to work closely with Michael Gove, joining the cabinet minister at the Ministry of Justice in 2015. Newman was reportedly among those who encouraged Gove to tank Johnson’s leadership bid by running himself.
Under Theresa May, Newman joined the pro-Brexit thinktank Open Europe, becoming an influential supporter of her controversial Brexit plan. Following Johnson’s leadership victory in 2019, Newman rejoined Gove in the Cabinet Office where he was leading the preparations for Brexit, before being promoted to senior adviser to Johnson in No 10 earlier this year.
In a lengthy post on his personal blog on Friday making a series of allegations against the prime minister, including that he had used outside finance to renovate his flat, Cummings claimed he had told Johnson that it would be “mad and totally unethical” to cancel the leak inquiry. The government maintains that the refurbishment costs were paid by Johnson personally.
The former top aide’s outburst came after Cummings himself was accused by anonymous No 10 sources of leaking private text messages between Johnson and the billionaire James Dyson, which he denies.