When a prime minister leaves office, the future for their spouse is usually quite straightforward: carry on doing whatever they did before, whether Philip May as a financier or Samantha Cameron in the fashion and retail world. With Carrie Johnson, who left Downing Street with her husband on Tuesday, things are more complicated.
As well as being just 34, which is 24 years younger than her husband, Johnson’s working life and career is closely intertwined to his, and she is one of the most overtly political other halves that Downing Street has seen.
Some of the hostile media coverage she has faced was undoubtedly motivated by Tory tribalism, in some cases even apparent misogyny. But those who know Johnson agree that she is ambitious, enjoys a public profile, and is not likely to vanish into obscure but worthy good works.
While some plans may wait, in part because she has two young children, there are already ideas afoot, and she remains officially in post as head of communications for the Aspinall Foundation, although her actual duties at the wildlife charity remain unclear.
One friend of Johnson has suggested she envisages a role as a form of social media influencer, publishing pictures on her currently private Instagram account, using her very visible interest in fashion and high-end interior decor.
Whatever Johnson goes on to do will be closely watched, something not always likely to make life easier, either for her or for whoever might give her a job.
A keen conservationist, she worked in communications for the marine conservation group Oceana, before joining the Aspinall Foundation, which has a board of trustees including Ben Goldsmith, the brother of Zac Goldsmith, a minister under Boris Johnson and a close friend of his and Carrie’s .
When Boris Johnson spent his final weekend in Downing Street, Carrie spent a day with the couple’s elder child, Wilfred, at the charity’s Port Lympne safari park in Kent.
Since Johnson took the job, the Aspinall Foundation has faced significant scrutiny of its work, and is being investigated by the Charity Commission over its finances, something which could bring pause for thought to other potential employers.
A former Conservative advisor and press officer, the then-Carrie Symonds with Johnson through her work. She rose to become the party’s head of communications, but left the role after less than a year amid circumstances that remain unclear.
Once inside No 10, her interest in and knowledge about the work of government, plus the fact that several key advisors were close friends, meant Carrie Johnson was always going to be a more central and public figure than the usual Downing Street spouse.
She was never a neutral force in No 10, and was closely involved in the November 2020 departures of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, the PM’s chief aide and head of communications.
With her husband freed from the prime ministerial shackle of being unable to take second jobs, his expected income from newspaper columns, corporate speeches and a potential memoir mean the couple will not need to rely on her earnings. The couple are reportedly looking to buy a house in Herne Hill, south London, for about £3.5m.
Another friend said Carrie Johnson had become used to a lifestyle of country house weekends and luxury foreign holidays: “She will expect him to keep them in the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed.”