There are few stranger relationships in Westminster than the close alliance of Boris Johnson and the campaigner, author, and self-described 'Chief Fanny defender' Nimco Ali. According to Ali, she first met Boris Johnson in Putney eight years ago when they bumped into each other on the high street, as she was campaigning about FGM. She asked him for a meeting and the rest, as they say, is history. The pair went on to take part in several anti-FGM campaigns and, as Ali put it: 'he and his team at City Hall went on to work with me over several years.'
Johnson and Ali seem to have become particularly close since he officially declared that he was running to become the next leader of the Conservative party. Shortly after his Telegraph column on women in burqas looking like 'letterboxes' was dredged up, Nimco Ali re-emerged as Boris' staunchest defender, writing a piece in the same paper describing him as 'not just a feminist, but a real champion of women’s rights.'
Since then, in multiple interviews promoting her new book, Ali has continued her praise of Boris. She's been quoted by the Evening Standard, Telegraph, and Mirror defending his relationship with Carrie. She also introduced Boris at a film screening, wrote another Telegraph column criticising a 'thinly veiled swipe at Boris Johnson', and gave an in-depth interview with the Guardian, in which she discussed her upcoming book, her life, and 'why she supports Boris Johnson'.
Ali is effectively an unofficial spokesperson for Team Boris. This could all be explained by the fact that Ali has an even closer relationship with Johnson’s partner, the much-discussed Carrie Symonds.
Ali's Instagram page suggests the two have been friends for some time. They have attended festivals together and travelled together: Carrie joined Ali on a trip to Somaliland in October 2018. When Carrie appeared at Boris' campaign launch earlier this month – her first public appearance as his partner – she was accompanied by Ali.
With rumours abounding that Carrie Symonds has been far more involved in Boris' leadership bid than first realised, it's probably not too surprising that her close friend has unofficially joined the Boris camp.
She’s certainly not shy about talking to the press. This morning, two papers carried similar stories about the state of Boris' relationship with Carrie, after police were called to their flat following a heated row at the weekend. The Sun front page revealed that 'Boris & Carrie [had] four rows in six weeks', while a Mirror exclusive said that 'Boris wants to get back with his wife', according to 'pals'. Taking aim at the Mirror's coverage, Ali tweeted out that the story was a 'load of crap', she had told the paper instead that 'Boris is more loved up than ever.' While Ali is unlikely to be the source of today’s front pages, could she be behind much of the other Boris and Carrie coverage?
She later updated the Telegraph on the state of the pair's relationship, saying that:
“'They're happy and it's just really sad to see people focussing on this. It's really twisted. Rather than having conversations around things like climate change, access to contraception to women...things that I've sat down and talked to Boris about. It's basically just mean. They are in love, they are together, they are happy. It's not speculation that they will tie the knot and be together.'
Which leads Mr S to wonder: has Ali simply been talking to the media to give her own perspective, or could she be briefing the press on behalf of the couple? Or is it self-promotion? It’s perhaps no coincidence that Ali has a book out, What We're Told Not to Talk About.
Either way, it won't be the last we hear of Ali and Johnson. If Carrie Symonds is the power behind the Johnson throne, Nimco Ali could be the force behind them both.