Boris Johnson’s former aide Cleo Watson hopes new political novel doesn’t lose her friends

·4-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Former Number 10 aide Cleo Watson is hoping that her highly anticipated novel based on her time working for Boris Johnson, out later this month, doesn’t lose her friends in Westminster. “I really made a big effort to make it clear that I’m not out to get anybody or cause any problems,” she told us this week. She thinks a few politicos will be “relieved” not to find themselves in it.

Many in politics are bracing for the release of Whips!, which is said to have quite a few political sex scenes. “There are some saucy bits,” she admits. “It’s more fun to write about sex than genuine intimacy”.

Watson, who was in Downing Street during the pandemic, tells us the events of the book are “totally fictional”. “So much crazy stuff has happened, you couldn’t make that stuff up” she said. However, the characters are caricatures which take inspiration from real life figures, so she expects “plenty of speculation” on who could be based on who.

Watson says her time at the heart of power gave her a particular perspective on Government mistakes. “There’s a lot of cock-up rather than conspiracy, I would say” she says. In turning her hand to fiction, she took “massive inspiration” from the work of ‘bonkbuster’ specialist Jilly Cooper. “I’ve been reading her since I was a teenager” she says.

Speaking at a showing of work by sculptor Zoë Carmichael in St James’s Church in Clerkenwell, Watson says she’s not in touch with Johnson any more. “I don’t think I can afford to hang out with him, even if I wanted to” she joked, referring to his high earnings since leaving office. And she doesn’t think a Johnson comeback is likely just now, as the circumstances are too difficult. “But he seems to be having a pretty good run of things, all things considered,” she said.

Where the Queen still holds sway


Most people know by now that the King is having his coronation on Saturday. But more than six months since the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth, some parts of the British state seem not to have come to terms with the fact that we now have a King. One person who recently got their British citizenship at a London centre tells us they were surprised to find an email asking them to pledge fealty to “her Majesty the Queen”. After 70 years, change takes some getting used to.

Akshata makes sure to watch Rishi’s interviews

Reports have suggested UK research investment went to a firm his wife Akshata Murty has a stake in (Ben Stansall/PA) (PA Wire)
Reports have suggested UK research investment went to a firm his wife Akshata Murty has a stake in (Ben Stansall/PA) (PA Wire)

It seems Rishi Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, watches a lot of TV in Number 10. A source says she watches her husband’s interviews and ranks them — her favourite so far was Piers Morgan’s for the TalkTV channel, which she elt “showed the real Rishi, even down to him being a bit nerdy”. That was the one where the PM said he was “batting above my average” with his wife. No wonder she was pleased.

Shades of grey for Keir and Sue

Labour’s Keir Starmer boasted about his team in an Economist magazine interview last week, saying he’d moved Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves’s office so near to his their staff are now almost indistinguishable. But he was much harder to pin down over the job for Sue Gray as his chief of staff.

Ex-civil servant Gray has accepted the post, but her move is being held up by a watchdog. Last week Starmer said he wouldn’t comment on Gray before the report. Yesterday he changed tack, saying Gray did nothing wrong. Meanwhile, it has emerged she has refused to talk to another inquiry by the Cabinet Office. For now, she’s stuck in the grey-zone.

India Rose’s eye for art

Soho heiress India Rose James and her partner Daniel Vildosola headed out to War Child UK’s Art On A Postcard auction at the Soho Revue last night. At the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, presenters Charlene White, Rylan Clark and Fleur East went to the Audio & Radio Industry Awards. And at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, singer James Blunt caused a ruckus last week when he ran across a table during a charity dinner for Blue Marine Foundation and the Invictus Games.