WhatsApp messaging has become an increasingly important part of communications within government, with recent leaks and publications revealing how the platform is used for top-level decision-making, and in the process raising concerns and concerns among ministers and political allies. Expresses personal views.
The cross-party Commons privileges committee has revealed message exchanges between Number 10 officials that Downing Street parties are “struggling” to decide how to claim within Covid lockdown rules.
A section of the committee’s report states that when asked to present evidence, Boris Johnson said he had “no relevant material”. Six months later, in response to another request, his lawyers supplied the committee with 46 WhatsApp messages between Johnson and five others.
Here are some key messages.
28 April 2021
Context: Nearly two weeks after a lockdown leaving party on April 16 for James Slack, the former Number 10 director of communications, a WhatsApp message reveals what Johnson has to say on parties breaking the law in public and in the House of Commons , Advisers had to struggle on this. To explain how they couldn’t break the rules.
Message: On 28 April 2021 an officer at number 10 said: “[No 10 official]The PM is worried about urine leaking and to be fair I don’t think it is unreasonable.
30 November 2021
Context: A year after Downing Street staff held lockdown parties, the Daily Mirror published the first Partygate report, accusing Boris Johnson and his staff of breaking the rules by hosting parties at Number 10 in the run up to Christmas 2020.
The bombshell story claimed Johnson made a “packed leaving do” speech to a top aide on 30 November during the second lockdown, and a gathering was held after Dominic Cummings left Downing Street on 13 November.
Message: Hours before the story began, Jack Doyle, Number 10’s then director of communications, said in a WhatsApp message to a Number 10 official: “Can you put our best possible defense on this. I don’t know if we’re going to flat out.” What do you say about
An officer at No. 10 replied: “Don’t we just do a normal line and not pay attention to whether there was a drink or not.” The official said: “‘Covid rules have been followed at all times’ or something.”
Doyle said: “I guess we have to say something stronger than we can manage but see what you think.”
25 January 2022
Context: Doyle questioned how Johnson’s lockdown birthday gathering on 19 June 2020 could not be considered a breach of the rules. At the time the party was held, strict lockdown rules meant that socializing indoors was restricted, but people could meet outside in groups of six. Exemptions were allowed for gatherings that were “reasonably necessary … for work purposes”.
Message: Doyle said in a WhatsApp message to a Number 10 officer at 6:54 am: “Do we have any legal advice on the birthday?” Exactly 30 seconds later, the director of communications said: “Haven’t heard any explanation of how it’s in the rules.”
At 8 a.m., another officer from No. 10 said: “I’m trying to do some Q&A, it’s not going well.” Doyle replied: “I’m struggling to come up with the way that it is in my head in the rules.” He added: “The PM was eating his lunch.”
Separately, Doyle later told No. 10’s officer: “I meant for the police bit but yeah the cake is as funny as it is difficult.”
Number 10’s officer said: “Reasonably necessary for work purposes.” But Doyle replied: “Not sure that works. Plus another big hole in the PM’s account isn’t it?”