Covid inquiry: is government bid to blackmail Boris Johnson over evidence a bust?

Disinformation: apparently, during the Covid crisis, Boris Johnson’s government set up a unit to remove posts about vaccines and lockdown that were perceived as harmful to the government’s position. Considering that most of us perceived the government to be lying, was any accurate information allowed to circulate at all?

This Cabinet Office blackmail attempt might be a bit late:

This Writer’s understanding is that Boris Johnson has already handed all his WhatsApp messages from April 2021 to February 24, 2022 over to the Covid inquiry. He gave his diaries and notebooks to the Cabinet Office and has requested that they be given back, so he can pass them on as well.

So this blackmail attempt by government lawyers might be a bit late.

The Cabinet Office has also foisted on him a requirement to co-operate with any “reasonable” demand and to send them his witness statements and any requested documents for pre-approval and redaction before they are submitted to the inquiry, according to the Times article.

The article states that

The Cabinet Office has agreed to fund his advice but last week its lawyers wrote to Johnson, saying: “The funding offer will cease to be available to you if you knowingly seek to frustrate or undermine, either through your own actions or the actions of others, the government’s position in relation to the inquiry unless there is a clear and irreconcilable conflict of interest on a particular point at issue.”

They said that the money would “only remain available” if he complied with other conditions, including sending the Cabinet Office “any witness statement or exhibit which you intend to provide to the inquiry so that it can be security checked by appropriate officials”.

Johnson, the letter continues, must not submit evidence until “you have applied any redactions which the Cabinet Office has informed you are needed before submission”.

The lawyers add the caveat that their request “does not in any way restrict your freedom nor your duty to provide sincere witness to the inquiry independently and without reference to the views of the current government”.

That reads like a lot of nonsense to This Writer.

Firstly, it seems the government is trying to unilaterally alter its contract with Boris Johnson to provide funding for his legal advice. In law (as I understand it), this cannot be enforced unless Johnson agrees to it.

Also, the claim not to be restricting his freedom/duty to provide sincere witness evidence to the inquiry independent of the current government’s views appears to be rubbish. How can he do so, without knowing the current government’s views, and having to submit his evidence to the government for redaction so that it can withhold its views from him?

Personally, This Writer thinks his best bet is to turn his back on the government’s funding and pay lawyers at Peters and Peters (according to The Times; it’s the same firm advising him at public expense on his response to Parliament’s Partygate inquiry) from his own money.

He’s certainly banked enough of it from extracurricular activities since he ceased to be prime minister.

Meanwhile, the Times article also features a couple of pieces of information which appear to have been tacked on, as they’re about the Covid inquiry but the paper didn’t seem to have anywhere else to put them:

Tussell, a data provider, says the government has issued £113 million worth of public contracts for law firms and other suppliers carrying out the inquiry.

One of the issues the inquiry will examine is the government’s communications strategy as Britain entered lockdown. The Daily Telegraph has alleged that the Cabinet Office had a secretive team called the Counter-Disinformation Unit which worked with social media companies to tackle perceived “threats” and remove posts about vaccines and lockdown that were deemed to be harmful.

Will we learn what those posts were, why they were deemed harmful, and what measures were taken against them, I wonder?

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