How battle for the job of defending Number 10 in daily TV press conferences sparked the feud between Lee Cain and Carrie Symonds
- Prime Minister and Carrie backed Allegra Strattor for job from the beginning
- Promises were also made to top up her £125,000 salary with Tory party funds
- Mr Cain said the focus groups had found Ms Stratton to be too ‘aggressive’
The flashpoint for the feud between Lee Cain and Carrie Symonds came with the auditions for Boris Johnson’s new press secretary, who will have the unenviable job of defending the Government in daily televised press conferences in the New Year.
From the outset, the Prime Minister – backed by his fiancee – was keen to appoint Allegra Stratton, a well-connected and experienced broadcaster who has worked for BBC Newsnight and ITV News.
Mr Johnson would ring Ms Stratton frequently while she was mulling over the offer, urging her to put her name forward.
From the outset, the Prime Minister – backed by his fiancee – was keen to appoint Allegra Stratton (pictured), a well-connected and experienced broadcaster who has worked for BBC Newsnight and ITV News
Promises were also made to top up her £125,000-a-year Government salary with money from Tory party funds so she could claim parity with the £140,000 pay packets of Mr Cain and Dominic Cummings.
It is also understood Mr Johnson promised Ms Stratton that she would not be subject to the process of a focus group assessment, leading her to object when Mr Cain insisted.
The results were used by Mr Cain to press the case for Ms Stratton’s closest rival for the job, BBC political journalist Ellie Price.
Mr Cain said the focus groups had found Ms Stratton to be too ‘aggressive’ when shown her responses to mock media questions by the selection panel.
The results were used by Mr Cain to press the case for Ms Stratton’s closest rival for the job, BBC political journalist Ellie Price (pictured)
He also made the argument to colleagues that Ms Price had seemed more composed under pressure. Mr Cain’s reservations meant there were inevitable tensions when Ms Stratton was given the job.
He then suggested to Ms Stratton that Ms Price should act as her deputy.
Ms Stratton refused – fearing Ms Price would be used to deputise for her if she refused to follow ‘scripts’ at press conferences suggested by Mr Cain or Mr Cummings. Friends say Ms Stratton has been left shaken by the civil war which has erupted over her appointment.
One friend said: ‘The past three weeks have been a complete nightmare for Allegra.
‘It was clear from the outset that her and Lee would not be able to work together. Lee always looked as if he wanted to rip her head off.’