It was meant to be a week of family celebrations – 100 days since his stonking Election victory, his fiancee’s birthday and Mother’s Day.
But instead an exhausted Boris Johnson has turned to vegan food to see him through 20-hour days as he battles against a mounting coronavirus death toll – and tries to see off the threat of economic meltdown.
The self-confessed aficionado of chorizo, cheese and red wine has found himself relying on plantbased food deliveries to his No10 flat, perhaps in an attempt to boost his immune system as senior aides self-isolate.
Start-up food company All Plants has been providing boxes of greens and recipes to the Downing Street flat as even the most famous address in Westminster struggles to secure a supermarket delivery.
Boris Johnson, sister Rachel Johnson (centre) and mother Charlotte Johnson Wahl (right)
Plans for the PM to venture out for dinner with friends last Tuesday evening to celebrate fiancee Carrie Symonds’s 32nd birthday were shelved, coming the same day that Mr Johnson warned the nation to socially distance.
Pregnant Ms Symonds, who is now classified as being in the ‘vulnerable’ category, is only leaving the grace-and-favour flat to walk their dog in St James’s Park.
However, the pair slipped out to Chequers yesterday afternoon for a few hours of downtime, where they are both expected to follow the PM’s message to the nation and use FaceTime to contact their mothers, both aged over 70, today.
After five senior No10 officials were struck down with Covid-19 symptoms, Mr Johnson’s Brexit chief David Frost and Whitehall enforcer Helen MacNamara are working from home, while a growing number of meetings are done by video call even within the building to avoid unnecessary contact.
Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson (left) and his sister, Rachel Johnson
Boris Johnson’s father Stanley sitting with his new partner Carrie Symonds at a conference
Discussions with Buckingham Palace are also underway for Mr Johnson to be able to take part in video audiences with the Queen as the crisis continues.
Aides are also battling to find a technological solution to holding promised Downing Street press conferences via video link but still allow a wide range of journalists to question the PM.
Meanwhile, Downing Street staff have ‘single handedly kept SW1’s restaurants in business’ with a stream of takeaways. Nando’s and pizza are fuelling a growing team. Outside experts drafted from the private sector have also begun to outnumber civil servants in meetings.
‘New experts seem to be produced on a daily basis as different elements to the crisis emerge,’ a the source says. ‘The call has gone out – an allpoints bulletin – and industry has answered.
Boris’s mother Charlotte Johnson Wahl attends the launch of Boris Johnson’s new book ‘The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History’ at Dartmouth House on October 22, 2014
Some of their finest are working in the building every day.’ With Mr Johnson moving to a seven-day operation, rusty old camp beds that ‘looked like they were bought during the miners’ strikes’ have been replaced by bulk orders of new mattresses for junior staff to avoid public transport.
Some of the PM’s aides have also taken to sleeping on their office sofas as the pressure mounts.
Another government source added: ‘You can hear the machine of government whirring at absolutely full pace.’
But there is a sense of dread that the UK is just weeks away from being hit as hard as Italy.
Boris Johnson campaigns with his brother Joe in Orpington Local Government elections 2012
Boris Johnson (right) and his pregnant partner Carrie Symonds (left) leave the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain, 09 March 2020
One source said: ‘This is why the Government is going so much harder now.’ Expert advice at morning Cabinet roundtables and afternoon Cobra briefings became ‘increasingly dark’ last week amid disputes between leading scientists about the best course to take.
‘The trajectory is not good,’ a source added. ‘Reality has taken hold.’
Another insider added: ‘It’s clear it is a race against time. The health horror is still ahead of us, but the economic horror was now.
‘I can’t imagine what it would have been like if the No10 and No11 teams were not anchored together in last week’s scenario.
The fiscal packages were so radical it would have been impossible if one element was not pulling in the same direction.’
There has also been an acceptance that communications must take a bigger lead in policy-making as the Government struggles to keep up with demands for information.
‘It has to be this simple,’ a senior source said. ‘The people that brought you ‘Vote Leave, take back control’ are now telling people to ‘stay at home, save lives’.’