Tag Archives: WhatsApp

Will Boris Johnson hand over all his WhatsApp messages to Covid inquiry?

Delete, delete… too late: Boris Johnson’s messages to a 10 Downing Street WhatsApp group are being demanded by the Inquiry into Covid-19.

Let’s hope the Covid inquiry has more luck than Lord Geidt; he only found out that Boris Johnson had lied to him about the infamous Downing Street refurbishment after WhatsApp messages Johnson had kept from him became public knowledge.

Johnson claimed he had changed his phone altogether in order to avoid responsibility for failing to pass on WhatsApp messages about the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.

Unluckily for him, messages sent using services such as WhatsApp are stored on a cloud server – not the recipient’s device(s) – and may be recovered by the authorities under circumstances including a legal investigation.

And who can forget the time Johnson, as ultimate arbiter of whether anybody has broken the Ministerial Code, used WhatsApp to urge Tory MPs to “form a square around the Prittster” when Priti Patel was accused of bullying civil servants?

On the other hand, will we finally receive confirmation that, in March 2020, Johnson wrote a WhatsApp message saying then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock was “totally f***ing hopeless”?

Will we finally find out whether Johnson inadvertently threatened the life of the then-Queen (Elizabeth II) by trying to visit her at the height of the Covid-19 crisis?

He had already mentioned on WhatsApp that he was unwilling to go back into lockdown in autumn 2020 because he considered Covid-19 only to be fatal to people aged over 80 – who have therefore lived longer than national life expectancy.

“So get COVID and live longer,” was the typically-insensitive Johnson remark.

This did not deter him from wanting to go and see the Queen for their weekly meeting, until he was reminded that she was over 80 and therefore entirely likely to die if he passed the disease on to her.

Will we see the actual messages – rather than Dominic Cummings’s screenshots – that show Johnson used WhatsApp to make decisions on the procurement of ventilators and on Covid-19 testing in care homes?

Or will Johnson have already used auto-delete software to remove evidence of the decision-making carried out on WhatsApp, after judges at the High Court said it was not illegal to do so?

I refer of course to the Covid-19 Inquiry’s request for posts to a 10 Downing Street WhatsApp group to be submitted to it as formal evidence.

Module 2 of the Inquiry will examine political decision-making in Westminster during the pandemic.

Given Johnson’s apparent reluctance to provide the damning details, it’s probably just as well that a further preliminary hearing for the module will take place in early 2023, with public hearings starting in the summer.

Perhaps by then, the required WhatsApp messages will have been provided…

Or maybe the Inquiry will have raided the cloud on which they’re stored.

Source: Covid inquiry demands to see Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages

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Law on records of government comms is badly out-of-date, WhatsApp court ruling shows

Social media junkie: Boris Johnson is probably deleting WhatsApp messages in this shot.

The Tory government has been crowing after High Court judges said there is nothing in the law to stop ministers from using services like WhatsApp and personal email accounts to make decisions and authorise action.

But this doesn’t mean ministers are justified in carrying out their business away from the official records.

It means the law on what should be counted as a public or official record is badly out of date and must be amended at once.

In fact, let’s face it, there should have been a constant policy of updating as soon as the Internet emerged as the communications revolution it has become.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has used WhatsApp to make decisions on the procurement of ventilators and on Covid-19 testing in care homes. We only know this because his ex-aide, now enemy, Dominic Cummings took screenshots of the now-deleted messages.

The procurement decisions are important because we know the Tory government paid huge amounts to fellow Tories who were not able to fulfil the contracts, while ignoring experienced firms that could have honoured any deals easily, and lives are certain to have been lost as a result.

And we know that government failures on Covid-19 in care homes certainly led to more than 20,000 deaths there.

Lord Brownlow discussed his funding of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat refurbishment with Johnson on WhatsApp, and it has been suggested that he only put up the money because Johnson had made a vague undertaking to consider his “Great Exhibition” idea.

Then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock diverted £40 million to Alex Bourne for vials to be used in Covid-19 tests, despite his having no previous experience of providing medical supplies, after the former landlord of a pub close to Hancock’s constituency home sent him a WhatsApp message.

Lord Bethell claimed that he never used his private email or telephone accounts for official business – but then replaced his mobile phone before it could be searched for information relevant to £85m of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) deals.

None of the information in the messages mentioned above is covered by the 1958 Public Records Act, so judges at the High Court said it was not illegal to have used WhatsApp, or to have used auto-delete software to remove evidence of the decision-making carried out there:

In their ruling, Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Johnson said the 1958 act “says nothing about such matters as whether a person can use a personal device to communicate with others about government business”.

They added: “Nor… does it require the production of a record of something in the first place.”

The widespread use of instant messaging services such as WhatsApp meant it was often a forum for workplace conversations “that would previously have been undertaken face-to-face” and not recorded, the judges said.

And the act’s wording meant there would “in practice be a large measure of discretion [within government] involved as to precisely what ‘arrangements’ there should be”, according to the ruling.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said the ruling “vindicates our long-standing position that we have acted in a proper and appropriate manner” – but it doesn’t do anything of the sort. It merely states that a 64-year-old, out-of-date law did not foresee changes in the way we communicate.

Gemma Abbott, legal director of the Good Law Project, one of the groups that took the case to the High Court, had it right when she said, “The use of private email accounts by ministers creates information black holes, thwarting Freedom of Information requests and critically undermining public inquiries.”

For that reason, the law needs to be updated to bring new methods of communication under its authority.

But, having got away with a killing (or, indeed, tens of thousands of them), can you see your corrupt Tory government lifting a finger?

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Here’s why campaigners are right to seek end of ‘government by WhatsApp’

Social media junkie: for all we know, Boris Johnson is probably deleting WhatsApp messages in this shot.

Government ministers led by Boris Johnson are conducting business via insecure social media services because it is easier than doing the work properly – and because they can hide what they are doing.

That’s the only explanation This Writer can see for Boris Johnson receiving a summary of the material from his ministerial red box via WhatsApp – he’s simply too damned lazy to go through the paperwork himself.

It means some poor civil servant has to do his work for him, in order to present him with a summary that he just about manages to keep in his tiny mind long enough to get it entirely mixed up – as seems to have happened, infamously, in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in 2018. If not that, what was the real reason for his shocking faux pas?

As for hiding what they are doing – we have seen secret WhatsApp messages from Boris Johnson because his former aide Dominic Cummings took screenshots of them – and they include decision-making on the procurement of ventilators, testing in care homes, and Mr Johnson’s description of then health secretary Matt Hancock as “hopeless”.

But there is no official record of these messages. That is unacceptable.

Worse, it has emerged that Johnson and other senior ministers, along with at least one of the six Cabinet Office senior civil servants, downloaded Signal – an app that can instantly delete messages. The only reason for them to do that is to communicate decisions outside of official government channels; government in secret.

That’s why campaigning lawyers from the Good Law Project and Foxglove are challenging the government’s use of these social media platforms in the High Court.

The Good Law Project and Foxglove say records of vital decision-making have been lost to the public, and this could undermine investigations such as next year’s inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

They say the government is potentially in breach of its own data security guidelines and the Public Records Act of 1958, which requires legal checks to be made on messages in case they need to be kept for the public interest:

Cori Crider, director of Foxglove, said: “Our democracy can only work if the decisions of those who represent us are open to scrutiny.

“That can’t happen if officials govern by secret WhatsApp chats that vanish into thin air.”

The government says it has secure channels for exchanging sensitive information, and ministers are obliged to record important decision-making discussions with officials.

It argues that a record is kept of all substantive discussions and only ephemeral messages are deleted.

With proof that Johnson used WhatsApp to communicate decisions – and then deleted them – freely available courtesy of Cummings, it will be interesting to see if any right-thinking judge can uphold that argument.

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#DowningStreetRefurbishment: #BorisJohnson’s excuse makes him either a liar or a fool

Lord Geidt: has he been fooled by Boris Johnson – twice? Or is it in fact Johnson who is the fool?

“I’ve changed my mobile phone” is fast becoming the Tory government version of “the dog ate my homework”, isn’t it?

What’s amazing is that Boris Johnson’s advisor on ministerial interests, Lord Geidt, has accepted this excuse for why Johnson did not provide important information to the inquiry on funding for Johnson’s Downing Street flat.

We all know the details now, don’t we? If not, just skip past the quoted parts that follow, taken from a previous Vox Political article, giving the story so far:

Johnson was accused last April of having misled Parliament by failing to provide details of funding for the renovations to his official Downing Street flat.

The allegation was that private donations to the Conservative Party totalling £60,000 had been used as part of £200,000 worth of refurbishments to the flat.

If so, it should have been reported to the Electoral Commission, because the Ministerial Code demands that “a statement covering relevant Ministers’ interests will be published twice yearly”. The last such statement (at the time of the investigation last April) had appeared in July 2020, eight months previously.

If Johnson had received the money from other people, this created a potential conflict of interest but Geidt concluded very swiftly that Johnson did not breach the Ministerial Code and that no conflict, or reasonably perceived conflict, of interest arose.

He said that £52,000 had been contributed by Lord Brownlow, but via a blind trust, meaning Johnson seemed unaware that Brownlow had contributed his own money to it.

But the Electoral Commission had launched its own investigation – and this has just concluded that Johnson did approach Brownlow for cash, via WhatsApp – the government’s favoured method of avoiding scrutiny, back in November 2020.

It seems clear that, having requested it from Brownlow, Johnson could not have been unaware of its origin when the bills were suddenly paid.

That was the situation on December 11. Now, Lord Geidt has published a WhatsApp exchange between Johnson and Brownlow, in which Brownlow said there would be no problem finding the cash for the flat refurbishment because he knew how it would be provided.

The intention had been for the money to come from a blind trust, but this did not happen and it was all provided by Brownlow instead.

So it seems incongruous to This Writer that Johnson claims not to know who provided the cash, having gone straight to Brownlow when he needed more.

Furthermore, his excuse that he had replaced his mobile phone and no longer had access to the WhatsApp exchange does not make sense, because his WhatsApp account would, logically, have been transferred to the new phone.

It is a simple process and one that This Writer feels sure Johnson would have carried out – if he didn’t want to lose all of his WhatsApp contacts and all of his chats. Is it the way the Electoral Commission gained access to the Brownlow chat?

Whatever the case, it seems clear that Johnson either lied to Lord Geidt by saying he couldn’t access the Brownlow chat when he could – or Johnson is an imbecile who can’t use a mobile phone properly.

In either case, he should not be the prime minister of the UK.

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Bethell sacked – for destroying evidence in ‘government by personal email’ scandal?

Lord Bethell: he previously claimed he never used his private accounts for official business. Now he has been sacked by the Tory Government – as This Site suggested. Is he about to face court action too?

Before we start, it should be made clear that Boris Johnson has given no reason for sacking Lord Bethell as a health minister in his Cabinet reshuffle.

That being said, Bethell is a key figure in a major – ongoing – scandal in which government decisions may have been made using personal email and/or WhatsApp accounts in order to avoid public scrutiny.

Bethell had claimed that he never used his private email or telephone accounts for official business – but then replaced his mobile phone before it could be searched for information relevant to £85m of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) deals that are subject to a legal challenge.

The government is expected to disclose Bethell’s correspondence on those matters – by email, WhatsApp and SMS – as part of legal proceedings issued by the Good Law Project.

The Health Secretary has a responsibility to preserve and search documents for information relevant to the case from the point at which judicial review proceedings were issued in late 2020, under the government’s “duty of candour” – and the phone was replaced in early 2021.

The government has admitted it made no effort to issue Bethell with a preservation notice requiring him to save documents, claiming that ministers’ official correspondence was routinely saved as a matter of course. However, this did not cover government business conducted by private means.

It seems Bethell has not reactivated his WhatsApp, SMS and private email accounts from that phone, although there is nothing to stop him from doing so. Efforts are being made to recover information in those accounts from his mobile phone provider.

I wonder if those efforts have borne fruit and Bethell’s departure from government is happening ahead of more serious proceedings in the courts.

Whatever happens there, this development indicates that Boris Johnson’s government is not as immune to public scrutiny as he has previously tried to suggest.

The prime minister has often shrugged off criticism after serious complaints were made about his own misbehaviour and that of his ministers, but at least three of the worst offenders – Gavin Williamson, Robert Jenrick and now Bethell – have been ejected in the reshuffle.

Is Johnson going for plausible deniability – putting distance between himself and Bethell so he won’t be caught in the backlash if serious wrongdoing is exposed?

How will minister be punished for replacing phone before it could be searched?

Lord Bethell: he previously claimed he never used his private accounts for official business so we know he’s a liar. Shouldn’t he be sacked by the Tory government?

The answer is that Lord Bethell probably won’t be punished at all.

But if he were involved in a criminal investigation (and he might as well be – as the awarding of many deals for supply of Personal Protective Equipment to Tory chums and/or donors who were incapable of providing it seems extremely crooked) and he ditched the evidence, he would be charged with a crime.

Here are the facts:

Labour has called for an inquiry into the use of WhatsApp within the government, after it emerged a health minister replaced his mobile phone before it could be searched for information relevant to £85m of deals that are subject to a legal challenge.

James Bethell, who oversaw the award of Covid contracts, is one of those under scrutiny over the way deals for personal protective equipment (PPE) and tests were allocated at the height of the pandemic.

As part of legal proceedings issued by the Good Law Project, the government is expected to disclose Lord Bethell’s correspondence including by email, WhatsApp and SMS relating to the award of £85m of contracts for antibody tests to Abingdon Health.

The secretary of state has a responsibility to preserve and search documents for information relevant to the case from the point at which judicial review proceedings were issued in late 2020, under the government’s “duty of candour”.

However, a witness statement from a government lawyer revealed Bethell replaced his phone in early 2021 and it may no longer be possible to retrieve the information about his dealings with Abingdon, although efforts are being made to recover them from his mobile phone provider.

The statement said Bethell had used his official email account as well as his private email account to send and receive emails relevant to the contracts, and that he had also used his mobile phone for SMS and WhatsApp messages. But it said Bethell had confirmed that about six months ago his phone was broken and replaced and that his new phone did not contain the phone data.

Government lawyers revealed Bethell had not been issued with a “preservation notice” requiring him to save documents because ministers’ official correspondence was routinely saved as a matter of course. However, this did not cover government business conducted by private means.

What does he have to hide?

When they’re under an investigation with legal consequences, people with nothing to fear don’t destroy the evidence.

And Bethell must know that the information will be available by other means – although logically there shouldn’t be anything to stop him from reactivating his WhatsApp, SMS and private email accounts. Why hasn’t he done so?

The fact that government preservation notices don’t cover business conducted by private means, while government ministers are allowed to carry out government business in that way and are trusted to duplicate it into the public system, is a huge opening for corruption.

And it seems clear that this particular minister has exploited it.

Maybe I’m wrong – and I’ll be happy to apologise of Lord Bethell can provide clear proof that he was not responsible for any wrongdoing.

But I won’t hold my breath waiting for it.

Source: Covid contracts: minister replaced phone before it could be searched | Health policy | The Guardian

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Police officer guarding Sarah Everard’s body ‘sent vile message’. We need to realise that this is now the norm

Police: we’re learning that the behaviour of our supposedly upstanding law guardians is actually vile.

It is time the people of Britain accepted that contempt is the best we can expect from police officers, whether we are alive or dead.

Only last year, two policemen caused a scandal when it was revealed that they had taken selfies of themselves with the bodies of two murdered women and shared them on WhatsApp.

The usual platitudes about “learning the lessons” were bandied about amidst the furore but it is clear that no lessons were learned at all, because –

and let’s bear in mind that this is amid a huge scandal over allegations that a policeman kidnapped and murdered Sarah Everard, and policemen brutally attacked women who were trying to hold a peaceful vigil for her –

A Metropolitan Police officer guarding the scene where Sarah Everard’s body was found has allegedly shared an “inappropriate” message about her death with colleagues on WhatsApp.

It is believed the “inappropriate graphic” contained offensive comments about her death.

The graphic does not contain photographic images, no images of Sarah, nor any other material obtained from or related to the investigation into Sarah’s murder, the Met confirmed.

Sarah’s family have been made aware of the incident.

“Made aware”? When will they receive the grovelling apology they deserve?

My bet is that they will never receive any recompense from the Met or the Home Secretary who issues the orders – Priti Patel.

It seems clear that she expects citizens of the UK to buckle down and accept that, since December 2019 at least, police have been allowed to treat the rest of us with contempt.

No lessons were learned from last year’s incident because nobody in power cares. The officers of the Metropolitan Police don’t care. Their commissioner, Cressida Dick, certainly doesn’t care – and we shouldn’t be fooled by her crocodile tears. And Priti Patel doesn’t care about anybody but herself as we all know.

In contrast, Patel has already promised to clamp down on people who – justifiably, some might say – brandished anti-police signs at the Clapham Common vigil on Saturday, that the police attacked so brutally.

This Writer is ashamed to admit that the signs were brought to Patel’s attention by Fay Jones, Tory MP for my constituency, Brecon and Radnorshire.

It seems she claimed the peaceful vigil “turned into a protest with photographs showing ‘ACAB’ signs, which stands for ‘all cops are bastards’”. Was she there, then? If so, why wasn’t she handling affairs in her own constituency, where she was supposed to be?

The public response to this, I think, can be summed up with the following tweet:

Patel’s problem is that she doesn’t understand that respect must be earned. People don’t automatically deserve it, just because they’ve managed to engineer themselves into cushy jobs.

The Met officers against whom the ACAB signs were directed clearly deserved the criticism, in This Writer’s opinion. The behaviour of the police at Clapham Common fell far below the standard expected by the British people.

And in taking the side of those brutal cops, Patel’s behaviour fell well below the expected standard too (although her behaviour has been well below the expected standard since she first became a member of Parliament).

Possibly worst of all is the fact that scandals like the Everard-related WhatsApp message will push the few decent police officers out of their respective forces.

Yes, I’ve known a few. As a newspaper reporter in Bristol and in Mid Wales, I came into frequent contact with the police and some were good people who genuinely wanted to be of service to the community.

Many weren’t, though – and because of this, and the attitude of Dick and Patel, more won’t be in the future.

Source: Met officer ‘sent vile WhatsApp to colleagues about Sarah Everard’s death’ while guarding site where her body was found

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‘Gas chavs’ WhatsApp chat WAS by Activate members


Remember this statement from Activate, the Tory version of Momentum?

You should; it only appeared on the organisation’s (yet-to-be-launched, allegedly) website a couple of days ago, and is still there at the time of writing.

Well, it’s a lie.

https://twitter.com/MattTurner4L/status/903650611509555200

So evidence is available to tie the abusive language to pro-Conservative campaigners.

According to Kerry-Anne Mendoza in The Canary, Activate membership director Fizarn Adris was in the WhatsApp chat – and had a Twitter account revealing a “hostile attitude” to poor and vulnerable people (“had” being the operative word – it has been all but cleaned out now).

And what are the mass media doing about all this?

They’re turning it into a story of abuse by left-wingers. Seriously:

No “allegedly” about it – I’d say that’s deliberately misleading the public.

Meanwhile, here’s a clip of the chap in charge of Activate, from 1987:


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BacktrActivate: Tory youth organisation dissolves into chaos

[Image: Thomas Stewart (@T_I_D_Stewart) on Twitter.]

There’s no other way to describe it: Activate, allegedly the Tory version of Momentum, is in chaos – with allegations of ‘Nazi chat’ on WhatsApp followed by a denial from organisers that they are even up and running, despite having launched on Twitter earlier this week.

What the blazes is going on?

Well, after the highly-parodied launch of Activate, earlier this week, it seems a certain right-wing blog – that’s correct, a right-wing blog – published details of a WhatsApp chat by group members, containing some highly objectionable statements:

Gassing chavs? Running medical experiments on them? That is not turning to a Nazi chat – it is Nazi language.

Greater control of media and television? More Nazi chat. As is introducing compulsory birth control on – guess who? – chavs. And what does one say about turning the Isle of Wight onto a “super prison” and “shooting peasants”?

Clearly someone at Activate HQ (if there is such a thing) saw what was going on and realised damage limitation was necessary. So the following statement appeared:

“Not officially launched” yet? Then why all the hullabaloo on Twitter? There’s a Facebook page, a website and a Twitter feed – all active… and a presence on WhatsApp, it seems.

“Activate is in no way, shape or form associated with the Conservative Party”? But what about this, from the Activate website:

We are committed to modern, open and member-driven politics in the Conservative Party, working to get Conservatives elected and ensuring that a Conservative government is in power.

Or indeed, their constitution, which declares that Activate members are “expected to be members of the Conservative Party” and membership is “not compatible with membership of any registered political party other than the Conservative Party“?

I ask merely for information.

“The ‘Whatsapp’ posts that are being connected to Activate by the media did not originate from Activate or any of our members.” Really? I wonder. Because someone came onto that WhatsApp chat and did this:

So it seems as though someone from Activate HQ (if it exists) has tried to be a voice of reason – but too late, because the chat has already turned up on the – and I stress this, right-wing – site mentioned in the last message.

Inevitably, Twitter has been having fun:

Some took an opportunity to remind us all about the recent media attack on Laura Pidcock, who said she would not treat Tories as friends:

https://twitter.com/PRHRoy/status/902927961829117952

But worse was to follow:

Perhaps they had a bad “felling” about their spelling?

Or – no. It had to be a hack, right?

https://twitter.com/ActivateBritain/status/903272243291095040

Riiiiiiight.

Some of the responses suggest that people did not take this claim seriously…

… especially as someone at Activate actually ReTweeted Russ Roberts’s reply:

https://twitter.com/TheSexiBoi/status/903284936672759808

And now, the final indignity: A rival Tory-supporting grassroots group has been set up, apparently by an estranged former member:

Our Conviction? It looks like a group suggesting the Tories should all be in jail.

And is it any better than Activate? Weeeeeell…

Keep your eyes on this one, folks – it can only get worse for the Conservatives.


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