Boris Johnson is now a man with "misery on his face", as Covid and money problems wear down the formally "exuberant" and "soothing" figure of the old days.
A deeply flattering portrait released yesterday suggested that the combination of his own grappling with death, dealing with the pandemic, and personal financial concerns had put a terrible strain on the normally cheerful Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson is also believed to have missed his former wife, Marina Wheeler, despite his loving relationship with new partner Carrie Symonds, the mother of his five-month-old son.
"Carrie really loves him and he loves her," reported a friend. “But that's very different from before… What Marina gave Boris was grounding. Right basis of his political views in the hinterland. & # 39;
Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on September 2nd
The Prime Minister during a virtual press conference on Downing Street on September 9th
The story of a prime minister being complained and "subdued" came in yesterday's Times, which quoted colleagues, friends and government sources to suggest that all was not all right with the once irrepressible Boris.
Mr Johnson's allies reacted with anger last night at the Prime Minister's dire display of the Prime Minister's mood, fitness and health. It was expressed dismay at the "brutal" and personal nature of the briefings given to the newspaper.
However, the reports come just a month after senior Johnson aide's father-in-law Dominic Cummings' father-in-law sparked speculation that Mr Johnson was so badly affected by his own serious Covid disease in the spring that he will be leaving number 10 in six months would.
Sir Humphry Wakefield apparently dropped the remark of a 13th century visitor to Chillingham Castle in Northumberland, a listed building, with the warning of an avid rider: “If you bring a horse back to work when it is injured, it will it never recovered. & # 39;
The reports were strictly rejected by both Downing Street and Mr. Johnson himself. However, the rejection hasn't stopped even a senior minister from speculating privately that the prime minister won't lead his party in the next election, expected in 2024.
And, according to The Times, yesterday a witness who was present at a meeting with Tory MPs in Mr. Johnson's wood-paneled Commons office last week said, “He just appeared to be submissive. He was engaged, but certainly not as lively as one would expect. & # 39;
The witness wondered: “Is that due to the illness? Is it the weight of responsibility or is it just an acknowledgment that he is not always very well informed about things? Most likely, it's a combination of all of these. & # 39;
An elderly Tory who said he should meet with Mr Johnson regularly had this opinion about how he deals with the extraordinary challenges that preoccupy him. & # 39; All of this burdens him very heavily. I think you can even see it in some of his public appearances – the kind of misery that is engraved on his face.
"He doesn't seem to enjoy being at the helm in rough seas."
The "All at Sea" analogy follows an unexpected attack by a traditional media ally on the Prime Minister's performance against Covid and Brexit – the earlier published Spectator magazine.
The prime minister should also be concerned about his personal finances and responsibilities. That includes still caring for four of your six children to varying degrees, all after an expensive divorce and a dramatic drop in income.
His income has fallen from more than £ 350,000 a year as a backbench MP – including a £ 275,000 contract with the Daily Telegraph – to just £ 150,000 as Prime Minister, of which he also has and has to pay tax liabilities on his Downing Street apartment for food sent for him and Carrie.
Mr Johnson during a debate with Ed Miliband in the House of Commons on Sept. 14
The Prime Minister testified before the Commons Liaison Committee on September 16
A friend told The Times that Boris, like other prime ministers, was very, very badly served. He doesn't have a housekeeper – he has a single cleaning lady and they are worried that they can afford a nanny. He's stuck in the apartment and Downing Street isn't a nice place to live. & # 39; Another claimed: "He's always worried about money, he has a real need to provide for his family and I think that worries him."
Regarding his recovery from Covid, a witness told The Times, "One day he's hot and then, in his inimitable way, he's going to say to someone," Why didn't you let me know? "and he is told," You were told that yesterday. "& # 39;
However, some MPs are concerned about something more important than Mr Johnson's bank balance – his health. While No. 10 and Mr Johnson himself insist that he made a full recovery from Covid-19 in April, others who deal with him are not as convinced. One told The Times: “The recovery period has been really difficult for him.
“In the beginning he wasn't allowed to go to Checkers on the weekend because it was forbidden to move from one place to another.
"Having the disease itself and having a baby was absolutely exhausting."
Johnson's staff deny these claims, citing his regular exercise regimen – and the fact that he has lost a stone and a half since leaving the hospital. In addition, there were suggestions yesterday that he might miss the support of the former Mrs. Marina.
Insiders insist that although he and Carrie are deeply in love, their relationship with Ms. Symonds, 24 years his junior, is not the same in terms of assistance to Mr. Johnson, despite being a former special adviser to the minister who directed the Press the Tory Party operating and intended to be a major source of advice to the Prime Minister behind the scenes.
One person who should know Ms. Symonds and Ms. Wheeler well said: “Carrie really loves him, and he loves them. But that's very different from before and the pressures of living with a little baby and partner on Downing Street, however accommodating it may be. It's still damn difficult.
Marina was his intellectual counterpart, and in his view everything was guided by or through her. She was instrumental in organizing his life from an intellectual point of view.
"I don't think it's like that with Carrie."