London (CNN)When Boris Johnson’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds joined the entourage of staff for his first speech as British Prime Minister, the waiting photographers went “bananas.”
Until now, Johnson’s 31-year-old girlfriend has done a pretty good job of staying out of the media spotlight — rarely seen on the campaign trail and steering clear of historic moments like meeting the Queen.Keeping a low profile as Johnson’s girlfriend for the past 18 months is one thing. But doing the same as the Prime Minister’s partner will prove more difficult. From the couple’s living arrangements (will she move into Downing Street?) to her involvement in diplomatic affairs (will she accompany him on foreign trips?), the British media has in recent days been in overdrive speculating on the unprecedented relationship.Boris Johnson delivers his first speech as UK prime minister, watched by Carrie Symonds and staff. For never in living memory has a UK prime minister had an unmarried partner while in office. Downing Street told CNN it did not know whether Symonds would be moving into the famous residence.Read MoreThese are uncharted waters for the British establishment and Symonds’ role will be largely down to personal preference. Unlike US first ladies, UK first partners have no strictly defined role. “It’s kind of made up as they go along, so it’s very dependent on the personality of the particular person, said Professor Tony Travers, director of the Institute of Public Affairs at the London School of Economics. Travers pointed to the way former prime minister Tony Blair’s wife Cherie continued her career as a barrister and “was very much her own person with almost nothing to do” with her husband’s job.Meanwhile Theresa May’s husband Philip stood by her side as she delivered her final speech as prime minister — “he decided to have a supportive, low profile, and the press pretty much left it at that,” said Travers. Boris Johnson’s father Stanley with Carrie Symonds at an anti-whaling protest outside the Japanese Embassy in London. A powerful political communicator The new Prime Minister is also unusual for having a partner who had a political career — long before she met Johnson. The daughter of Matthew Symonds, a co-founder of the Independent newspaper, and the paper’s lawyer Josephine McCaffee, Symonds had a privileged upbringing in southwest London where she attended a private girls’ school.Symonds studied theater studies and art history at the well-respected University of Warwick, before working as a press officer for the Conservative Party in 2010 and quickly rising up its ranks. She was part of the campaign team that helped to get Johnson re-elected as mayor of London in 2012.Then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson with Carrie Symonds at the Conservative Party’s fundraising Black and White Ball in 2018. At 29, Symonds became the youngest-ever director of communications at the party, and analysts say she’s been crucial in tidying up Johnson’s famously disheveled persona during the leadership campaign.”Since she’s come on the scene he’s become a much trimmer figure, he’s lost weight, he’s had his hair cut … he’s definitely smartened up his appearance,” said Caroline Wheeler, deputy political editor at the Sunday Times newspaper. Symonds is a “very established political communicator,” Wheeler added. “She’ll know how to keep him on message.”Throughout the leadership campaign Johnson was “very careful” about whom he spoke to, said Wheeler, doing few newspaper interviews and shunning some of the major TV debates. Boris Johnson's first full day as UK Prime Minister“He’s been a lot more disciplined figure and lots of people have credited Carrie with that transformation,” Wheeler said.Symonds now works as a senior advisor to conservation charity Oceana, and her Twitter feed is filled with stories ranging from overfishing to banning trophy hunting.Now some analysts believe she will have the PM’s ear on the climate crisis and animal welfare, an issue that Johnson unexpectedly touched on during his inaugural speech.”She’ll influence policies, particularly the environment,” said LBC radio broadcaster and political commentator Iain Dale. Johnson has been “talking a lot about climate change during the campaign,” he said.The ‘taxi cab rapist’Symonds has also spoken out about other issues important to her. Barely out of her teens, she spoke publicly about her encounter with John Worboys — known in the UK as the “taxi cab rapist” who is thought to have assaulted at least 100 victims.At 19, Symonds caught a lift with Worboys to her home in west London and during the ride he offered her alcohol — much like the other spiked drinks he gave his victims. She said that as a result, she does not know what happened afterwards. Symonds waived her anonymity in the case, telling a number of British papers about her ordeal. She also helped to launch a judicial review after the parole board decided Worboys was no longer a threat.The review later found Worboys still posed a major risk to the public, and would remain in jail. The justice system had “let us down,” Symonds wrote in the Evening Standard. “Finally we’ve been proved right.”Tabloid fodderToday, Symonds is in British newspapers for different reasons. At 55, Johnson is more than two decades older than Symonds, and still technically married to his ex-wife of 26 years Marina Wheeler, with whom he has four children. The couple separated last year and reports of Johnson’s alleged extra-marital affairs — and children out of wedlock — have long graced the pages of the UK papers.Boris Johnson and ex-wife Marina Wheeler pictured in 2014. Johnson has never publicly addressed the issue of his extra-marital children. CNN contacted Johnson’s office for comment but had not received a reply at time of publication. Given Johnson’s complicated private life, his relationship with Symonds “has got all the ingredients for the type of thing tabloid newspapers love,” said Travers.But their relationship is also a reflection of modern Britain, said Wheeler. “There are lot of people who choose to live together without being married,” she said. “And I think it’s important that those who are running the country, reflect what many people in this country are doing.”The couple’s relationship was put under the spotlight like never before during the leadership campaign after police were called to an argument at Symonds’ south London flat. Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonBritain’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, waves from the steps of No. 10 Downing Street after giving a statement in London on Wednesday, July 24.Hide Caption 1 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonA 21-year-old Johnson speaks with Greek Minister for Culture Melina Mercouri in June 1986. Johnson at the time was president of the Oxford Union, a prestigious student society.Hide Caption 2 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson started his career as a journalist. He was fired from an early job at The Times for fabricating a quote. He later became a Brussels correspondent and then an assistant editor for The Daily Telegraph. From 1994 to 2005, he was editor of the weekly magazine The Spectator.Hide Caption 3 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonIn 2001, Johnson was elected as a member of Parliament. He won the seat in Henley for the Conservative Party.Hide Caption 4 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson looks apologetic after fouling Germany’s Maurizio Gaudino during a charity soccer match in Reading, England, in May 2006.Hide Caption 5 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson is congratulated by Conservative Party leader David Cameron, right, after being elected mayor of London in May 2008. Cameron later became prime minister.Hide Caption 6 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson, left, poses with a wax figure of himself at Madame Tussauds in London in May 2009.Hide Caption 7 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson poses for a photo in London in April 2011. He was re-elected as the city’s mayor in 2012.Hide Caption 8 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson and his wife, Marina, enjoy the atmosphere in London ahead of the Olympic opening ceremony in July 2012. The couple separated in 2018 after 25 years of marriage. Hide Caption 9 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson gets stuck on a zip line during an event in London’s Victoria Park in August 2012.Hide Caption 10 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson poses with his father, Stanley, and his siblings, Rachel and Jo, at the launch of his new book in October 2014. Stanley Johnson was once a member of the European Parliament.Hide Caption 11 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson takes part in a charity tug-of-war with British military personnel in October 2015.Hide Caption 12 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson kisses a wild salmon while visiting a fish market in London in June 2016. A month earlier, he stepped down as mayor but remained a member of Parliament for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.Hide Caption 13 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson arrives at a news conference in London in June 2016. During the Brexit referendum that year, he was under immense pressure from Prime Minister Cameron to back the Remain campaign. But he broke ranks and backed Brexit at the last minute.Hide Caption 14 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson sits next to Prime Minister Theresa May during a Cabinet meeting in November 2016. Johnson was May’s foreign secretary for two years before resigning over her handling of Brexit.Hide Caption 15 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonAs foreign secretary. Johnson meets with US House Speaker Paul Ryan in April 2017. Johnson was born in New York City to British parents and once held dual citizenship. But he renounced his US citizenship in 2016.Hide Caption 16 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson launches his Conservative Party leadership campaign in June 2019.Hide Caption 17 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt take part in the Conservative Leadership debate in June 2019.Hide Caption 18 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson speaks in July 2019 after he won the party leadership vote to become Britain’s next prime minister.Hide Caption 19 of 20 Photos: In photos: British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonBritain’s Queen Elizabeth II welcomes Johnson at Buckingham Palace, where she invited him to become Prime Minister and form a new government.Hide Caption 20 of 20Neighbors recorded Symonds telling Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat.” Police said that officers arrived and “spoke to all occupants of the address, who were all safe and well.”The incident raised questions about whether Britain’s next leader owed the public an explanation for what happens behind closed doors.”The British press is supposed to operate on a ‘public interest’ basis,” said Travers. Meaning “does the prime minister’s private life in any way impinge on their capacity to do their job?”With the UK in the grip of its worst political crisis in decades, Johnson is under huge pressure to deliver Brexit by the October 31 deadline. The PM probably feels he can do without the extra focus on his private life.