Carrie Johnson needed her friend in her “childcare bubble” with Boris Johnson for extra support over Christmas because of the challenges of running the country and experiencing difficult pregnancies, a cabinet minister has claimed.
It has been revealed that the Johnsons’ friend Nimco Ali, godmother to their son Wilfred, spent Christmas with the family at a time when lockdown restrictions in London prevented almost all household mixing.
On Tuesday the international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, hinted that the family had needed extra support at that time. Johnson, who is now expecting her second child, revealed she had a miscarriage at the start of this year, meaning she is likely to have been pregnant over the festive period.
Wilfred was eight months old at the time and No 10 has said Ali was part of their childcare bubble, which allowed some limited mixing.
Pressed on whether a family would have needed additional childcare over Christmas, Trevelyan said: “It’s hard enough for the rest of us; when you’re having to run a country as well and have the challenges of difficult pregnancies, having a supportive friend to be there in your bubble is absolutely the right thing to do.”
The claims first emerged in a report in Harper’s magazine that said Ali “spent Christmas with the couple at No 10 despite pandemic restrictions on holiday gatherings”.
Ali, who is a prominent campaigner on tackling female genital mutilation and a government adviser on violence against women and girls, said she did “not break any rules”.
Trevelyan said Ali was a “passionate and adoring godmother to Wilf”, and all rules had been followed. “I have no doubt at all the prime minister and Mrs Johnson followed the rules and they had the kind support of Nimco to support them in what was a really tough time for them,” she said. “It was a childcare bubble and Nimco was there to help support and look after Wilf whilst the challenges of being the prime minister and his wife.”
Neither Boris Johnson’s mother – who died last month aged 79 – nor Carrie Johnson’s mother were with the family over Christmas, No 10 has confirmed. Carrie Johnson’s mother, Josephine McAffee, was reportedly part of a support bubble with her daughter, an arrangement that was allowed if one member lived alone or if a household had a child aged under one, which Wilfred was last Christmas.
Despite the circumstances, questions have been raised about whether Ali’s attendance complied with the criteria for social mixing. The government introduced a “Christmas bubble” allowing people to mix on Christmas Day, but this was not in place in areas in the highest tier of restrictions, which then included London.
The rules said it was possible for people to use a childcare bubble on 25 December, even in areas under the highest tier, “but only if reasonably necessary for the purposes of childcare and where there are no reasonable alternatives”.
It was possible for households to have both a support bubble and childcare bubble, but the latter had strict rules and had to be used only for childcare, not as a reason for people from different households to mix socially.
It is not clear whether the childcare bubble arrangement for Ali was longer-term or only in place for Christmas. Under the rules, childcare bubbles could change, but only if there was a reason connected to childcare logistics.