John Lewis has won the Carrie Antoinette saga

Melanie McDonagh
·2-min read
 (Daniel Hambury)
(Daniel Hambury)

Come the hour, come the social media opportunity. John Lewis has exploited its role in the Downing Street wallpaper controversy with a series of tweets, poking fun at Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds being too grand for the nation’s favourite retailer.

“Time for an interiors refresh? We pride our Home Design Service on having something for *almost* everyone,” was brilliant. Then there was the fabulous: “Phew, the John Lewis social team have just finished an all-day brainstorming session to find ways for people to talk about us on Twitter... Have we missed anything?”

Give that team a bonus. They made the most of the fact that the one bit of the Boris controversy that has stuck is the charge (in a Tatler profile) that poor Theresa May left behind a “John Lewis furniture nightmare” which Carrie couldn’t live with.

That part of the nation which has some John Lewis item about the house — including, I bet, a large proportion of Conservative constituency chairpeople — bridled: “Who does Carrie Symonds think she is, making herself out to be too grand for John Lewis?” Carrie Antoinette! Sarah Vine, Mrs Michael Gove, gallantly declared the PM’s family couldn’t live in a skip, but funnily enough, that just inflamed things.

All those political commentators who once declared that Carrie would be an asset for the PM, being young, eco-friendly and not at all toxic male, should at this point have committed seppuku.

By dissing John Lewis and embracing an interiors aesthetic with gold wallpaper — the tart’s boudoir look is never good for Tories — she is now an acknowledged liability. To make matters worse, the Electoral Commission has launched an investigation into possible offences around the funding of the refurbishment, which may require the PM and his fiancée to hand over personal correspondence.

You know why this matters. In politics, it is always the small stuff that sticks. If we can’t get our heads round the allocation of PPE contracts row or the David Cameron lobbying controversy, we can grasp a cash-for-curtains scandal because it boils down to the simple principle of not living within your means.

John Lewis has emerged the winner in all this. But you have to feel for the PM — how he must hate the look of his home interiors now.