BORIS Johnson has staked his political future on halting vicious attacks on fiancée Carrie Symonds.
The PM took the high-risk gamble of naming ex-aide Dominic Cummings as the source of embarrassing leaks — many directly aimed at his future bride.
Pals believe Mr Cummings targeted her because she is Mr Johnson’s “weakness”.
Egged on by Carrie, the PM agreed to confront his former senior adviser head-on, saying that he was the “chatty rat”.
A source claimed: “Boris says he is 100 per cent sure that it’s Dom who’s behind all the leaking.
“I can’t tell you why he is so certain but there isn’t a shred of doubt in his mind.
“Why else would he go public with this otherwise?”
Still ahead in the polls and basking in the success of his successful jabs campaign, Mr Johnson was slowly worn down by the drip, drip of leaked texts and emails.
It was felt many were aimed at Carrie because she had single-handedly ended the macho culture created by Mr Cummings in No10.
But she was driven to her wit’s end by the direct attacks on her and, after meeting advisers last week, the PM decided to go public.
A pal of Carrie said yesterday: “Hardly a week goes by without one leak or another being slipped out to damage her. We all suspect it’s Dom.
“They were direct attacks on Carrie because he knows that will hurt Boris even more. It’s all quite unpleasant.”
Mr Cummings was removed in November after Carrie and allies accused him of creating a toxic atmosphere in No10.
His supporters hit back that she was using her First Lady-style role to become a modern-day Diana — and accused Mr Johnson of running “government by girlfriend”.
Within weeks of his exit stories appeared about how the PM wanted to use £60,000 of party funds on a refurbishment, demanded by Carrie, for their official flat above No11 Downing Street.
Mr Cummings has denied being the source of the leak but in a blog published on Friday he suggested the move might have been illegal.
And he accused the PM of falling “far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves”.
Carrie’s rescue pup Dilyn also became a target for leaks.
It is claimed by her pals that Mr Cummings harbours a grudge against the dog after it once “humped his leg” at a staff away day in Chequers, the PM’s country retreat.
Stories later appeared, accusing the pet of cocking its leg over an aide’s handbag and chewing antique furniture and books at Chequers.
It inspired Mr Johnson to call for somebody to “shoot that f dog”.
Last week, the PM reached the end of his tether with Mr Cummings.
A Cabinet source said: “This all flared up last year in a row over who had the Prime Minster’s ear.
“Sadly, that argument is still going on but, annoyingly, it is all being played out in public.
“Who is he listening to? That’s the root cause of this.”
One No10 insider said: “It was a tough call for Boris to force out Dom. We knew at the time it wouldn’t end well either way.
"But it had reached the stage where there was a really toxic atmosphere in No10.
"It had split into lots of different camps and something had to be done.
“The PM knew there was trouble whatever he did.
“He faced two outcomes — a st one or a really st one.”
Meanwhile, Health Minister Nadine Dorries remarked: “Downing Street know exactly, 100 per cent, who the chatty rat was. Those who protest ‘it wasn’t me’ doth protest way too much. Chatty rats will not stop the PM from delivering.”
A source said: “Everybody grew increasingly convinced that Dom was stirring it up on a regular basis. Every few days there was another embarrassing leak and it was really winding up the PM.
“In desperation they decided on the nuclear option — to splash Dom on the front pages in the hope it would force him to think twice before leaking anything else.
“We reached the stage where we were saying we can’t just sit here and accept being repeatedly punched in the face. We have got to hit back and make him stop.”
A senior minister added: “They wanted to move the story away and thought that, by pointing the finger at Dominic, it would create the right kind of distraction.
“The public hates him so he would become a lightning conductor to take the heat off the PM. The problem now is it has stirred everything up.
“Before it was a ‘Westminster bubble’ story that most people weren’t the slightest bit interested in. Now it is far more box office — that crazy guy Cummings going head to head with Boris.
“Instead of a few texts, it’s now all about whether the PM tried to halt a leak inquiry because the culprit was a close friend of his fiancée.
“It’s about whether he attempted to break the law to avoid paying to decorate the Downing Street flat. And far more people have been dragged into this mess.”
‘No10 just fuelled the leak story’
By Douglas Murray
IN maritime disaster films the problem comes when the ship’s captain wakes the sleeping kraken.
Similar happened this week as Boris Johnson woke a sleeping Dominic Cummings.
None of it had to happen.
Everyone staring at the wreckage must wonder why it did.
The PM spent part of last week in a row over a leak of text messages he exchanged with Sir James Dyson last year.
Nothing in them was untoward.
But Labour hope they are uncovering another lobbying scandal.
Number 10 then made the great mistake
They briefed that the PM thought he had identified the leak’s source as Dominic Cummings, the PM’s ex-adviser.
The clear message was that he was bitter and hoping to harm his former boss.
But what was madder still about Number 10’s strategy was that it pushed Cummings to give his own version.
In a devastating blog, he revealed his side of the story.
He concluded it was “sad” to see “the PM fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves”.
He showed how he could not have been the leaker.
And he gave Downing Street a bigger problem by talking about an earlier and more serious leak.
He says he identified the source as adviser Henry Newman.
Cummings says that when he told the PM, Johnson was horrified, saying he couldn’t fire Newman because “this will cause me very serious problems with (Boris’s fiancée) Carrie as they’re best friends”.
Cummings says the PM then asked if they could stop the inquiry into the leak
How can government discussion descend to such playground banalities?
Can great matters of state really run aground on questions of who is besties with whose girlfriend?
Firstly, there is a matter of judgment.
Why did the PM think it a good idea to waken Cummings?
But worse is the distraction.
Covid would keep any government busy.
But there are other issues, too.
There is the economic recovery – how we get out of our Covid-induced slump.
We also have to forge a new relationship with the EU.
And closer to home there is the issue of how we ensure our country doesn’t break up, with the Scots Nats trying to destroy the United Kingdom.
The people sailing this ship of state need to get us through a pile of storms and the great storm Downing Street is now in the middle of.
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