Former aide to Boris Johnson says she felt like his ‘nanny’

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 (Nigel Howard)
(Nigel Howard)

A former senior aide to Boris Johnson has said she felt like his “nanny” as she recalled having to schedule his naps and soothe his “temper tantrums”.

Special adviser Cleo Watson described how staff created a “puppy gate” barrier to prevent Mr Johnson leaving his office while he was self-isolating during the pandemic.

Ms Watson, who was brought into government by Dominic Cummings after working on the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, compared his reluctance to leave office to Donald Trump’s refusal to concede defeat following the 2020 US Presidential election.

She also admits there were days when people at the heart of Government “thought the virus had won, that we had acted too late and that our measures weren’t working”.

The revelations are included in an article Ms Watson has written for Tatler where she describes working as deputy chief of staff and her experience in No 10.

Following the departure of Dominic Cummings in November 2020, she claims the Prime Minister compared her to an “ugly old lamp” one partner is left with after a divorce before firing her.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

She said: “He presumably knows better than most how it feels when a marriage breaks up,” she says, one of many barbs aimed at Mr Johnson’s character in a long list of unflattering descriptions of his conduct.

“My role at No 10 sounds fancy, but a lot of the time I was much closer to being Boris’s nanny,” she added, going on to describe regularly taking Mr Johnson’s temperature in the early days of the pandemic.

“Each time, never willing to miss a good slapstick opportunity, he dutifully feigned bending over.”

Comparing working in Downing Street to a nursery, she said: “This, plus the constant questioning about whether or not he’d washed his hands (‘What do you mean by ‘recently’?’), the hand-wringing about his hair, which made him look even more like one of those troll toys from the ’80s at the daily televised press conferences, and the frequent scolding about making gags such as ‘Kung-Flu’ and ‘Aye! Corona!’, characterised much of the pre-terrifying brush-with-death era in the nursery.

“During his recovery, the nannying came on in leaps and bounds: my insisting that he drink vitamin-filled green juices from Daylesford instead of his usual Diet Coke; trying to find diary time for his naps or very gradual exercise… I alternated between stern finger-wagging and soothing words in response to his regular ‘I hate Covid now.

“I want everything to go back to normal.

“Why does everything happen to meeeeeee?’ temper tantrums.”

She added: “The PM himself was subject to a fair amount of house-training.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson - In pictures

Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions session (Via REUTERS)
Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions session (Via REUTERS)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds enter Downing Street as the Conservatives celebrate a sweeping election victory (Jeremy Selwyn)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds enter Downing Street as the Conservatives celebrate a sweeping election victory (Jeremy Selwyn)
Britain's New Prime Minister Boris Johnson is welcomed into 10 Downing Street by staff (AP)
Britain's New Prime Minister Boris Johnson is welcomed into 10 Downing Street by staff (AP)
Britain's New Prime Minister Boris Johnson is welcomed into 10 Downing Street by staff (AP)
Britain's New Prime Minister Boris Johnson is welcomed into 10 Downing Street by staff (AP)
Queen Elizabeth II welcomes newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II welcomes newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson (PA)
(PA)
(PA)
(PA)
(PA)
(AP)
(AP)
Boris Johnson speaks with the Queen's Royal Hussars stationed in Estonia at the Tapa military base (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson speaks with the Queen's Royal Hussars stationed in Estonia at the Tapa military base (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty)
(10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty)
(Simon Dawson / No10 Downing Street)
(Simon Dawson / No10 Downing Street)

“Like many, he was ‘pinged’ a couple of times and insisted on working from his downstairs office while isolating.

“Very soon, this required setting up chairs as barriers in the doorway, as he couldn’t resist stepping over the threshold into our adjoining room to peer over shoulders at what people were working on (invariably in a pair of someone else’s reading glasses he’d found lying around).

“So the prime ministerial ‘puppy gate’ was created.

“He’d kneel on the seats, his elbows propped over the top, like a great unruly golden retriever, howling for attention.”

Describing the potential for seeing comedy in the situation now that enough time has passed, she said: “Because among the gruelling 18-hour days, horrible days when we thought the virus had won, that we had acted too late and that our measures weren’t working, there was some light relief.”

Downing Street said it did not wish to comment on Ms Watson’s account of her time there.

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