Downing Street has not traditionally been a place for babies. Only five children have ever been born to a sitting prime minister but now a sixth is expected this Christmas. On Saturday, Carrie Johnson announced that she and Boris are expecting their second child together, joining Wilfred, who was born last April and was front and centre of photos of the G7 in Cornwall. His new brother or sister will be a “rainbow baby”, which refers to a child expected after a miscarriage and Symonds has been praised for speaking honestly about her experience. Cherie Blair has spoken about how it is not easy being pregnant in the public eye; she had terrible morning sickness with Leo - and Carrie is part of a long overdue shift towards a more open and supportive culture.
Symonds is 33 and Johnson 24 years her senior. They got married in May. He has four children with his second wife, QC Marina Wheeler. The eldest, Lara, is 28. Then there is a child from an extramarital affair with art consultant Helen Macintyre and there may be more - he will not confirm. It’s a blended family full of strong characters, not least Dilyn the dog, who has been neutered to manage his romantic urges that has led to him humping people’s legs. Where could he get it from?
Having a large family is expensive and the Prime Minister often complains about his financial situation, saying he “can’t afford to do this job”. As PM he makes £161,401 a year, a climb down from when he was an MP, journalist and author – in his last year before entering Number 10, he made more than £830,000.
At least, they haven’t had to pay for childcare. Symonds’ mother Josephine McAfee, who used to be a lawyer at The Independent, moved in when Wilfred was younger to help out. The PM wanted to take a fortnight off when Wilfred was born but that did not go to plan. Instead, he was just out of intensive care, having had coronavirus and then had to guide the country through the pandemic. Tony Blair spoke about getting up multiple times each night to look after his Downing Street baby, Leo, but Johnson has not made any such claims.
The Johnsons live in a four-bedroom flat above Number 11 Downing Street (it is bigger than Number 10 and more family friendly). Unlike Wilfred, this baby will be spared what was called the “John Lewis furniture nightmare” of the Theresa May era. Symonds has been busy giving Downing Street a makeover. Wilfred’s nursery has vintage furniture in it, which Symonds restored herself. There are paintings on the walls by all the Johnsons, Boris’s artist mother Charlotte, Boris himself and handprints by Wilfred.
There’s a climbing frame in the garden, which the Camerons left behind, and children have been known to roller skate around Downing Street - Harold Macmillan put up a sign for his grandchildren saying “no roller skating in corridors today, Cabinet meeting”. But previous prime ministers with children have all said they prefer Chequers, which is child-friendly. There’s a lawn where Tony Blair played football with his children and security staff, there’s a heated indoor pool with armbands for babies and Victory Drive is a handy place if you are learning to ride a bike. David Cameron spoke about how his daughter who was born while he was PM, Florence, didn’t know anything else - she was friends with the security guards and drew pictures for her father’s aides. It will be life in a fishbowl but no doubt Wilfred will lead the way.