Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie needed a friend to form a “childcare bubble” with them over Christmas because of the challenges of parenting while prime minister, a cabinet minister has insisted.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan said it was “absolutely the right thing” for them to have son Wilfred’s godmother, Nimco Ali, at No 10 while lockdown restrictions in London largely prevented household mixing.
Swathes of people had their festive plans cancelled last year when Mr Johnson placed the capital and much of the south east under Tier 4 restrictions amid soaring coronavirus cases.
But the international trade secretary argued it was right for the Johnsons to have their friend over to help with childcare at the time when Wilfred was eight months.
“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,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Downing Street has faced questions over the festive arrangements after a report in Harper’s Magazine claimed Ali “spent Christmas with the couple at No 10 despite pandemic restrictions on holiday gatherings”.
Ms Ali, a longstanding friend of Carrie Johnson, and a government adviser on tackling violence against women and girls, insisted that she did “not break any rules”.
Describing her as a “passionate and adoring godmother”, Ms Trevelyan also insisted the Johnsons had followed the restrictions in place at the time.
“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 added.
She added: “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 … I have every confidence they did not break the rules.”
The childcare bubble rules were open to anyone living in a household with a child aged under 14, allowing friends or family from one other household to provide help looking after the child.
On Monday, a Downing Street spokesperson told The Independent: “The prime minister and Mrs Johnson have followed coronavirus rules at all times. It is totally untrue to suggest otherwise.”
Responding to reports on social media, Ms Ali said she had received racist abuse since “untrue story” first appeared, adding: “No I did not break any rules but you knew that and just wanted a reason to tweet hate”.
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