Tag Archives: WhatsApp

Will Nicola Sturgeon enjoy renewed popularity over WhatsApp descriptions of Tories?

Take pride in it: is Nicola Sturgeon brandishing the finger with which she texted the claim that Liz Truss was as “useful as a marzipan dildo” on WhatsApp? Sadly not.

This Writer never had much time for Nicola Sturgeon – until now. What a shame she’s being praised for something that isn’t true but is from a parody account.

The SNP politician was ordered to disclose the contents of WhatsApp messages she sent during the Covid-19 crisis. What she said about Boris Johnson was bad enough – but a parody ‘X’ account took the story, ran with it, and brought joy to the nation:

Why would anybody want her to apologise for saying these things? This Writer reckons that if Sturgeon really had said them, she should have had a medal!

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I’m stealing the description of Suella Braverman, by the way. It’s only her first initial and the name of the foreign politician whose politics seem to most closely resemble her own.

Sadly, @PoliticoForYou is a parody account and the story isn’t true – apart from what Sturgeon said about Boris Johnson.

So it’s still bad news for him, after he tried to tell the Covid Inquiry in December that he got on well with Sturgeon and they had a good relationship. This may have been true in their interactions, but clearly her own opinion of him wasn’t as he described.

More details of the real WhatsApp messages are available (in watered-down form) here on the BBC News website.


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Mone moans, Bethell contradicts; but where did he get his evidence?

Lord Bethell: he also previously claimed he never used his private accounts for official business so we know he’s a liar. Right?

After Michelle Mone admitted lying about her involvement with a £220 million contract for PPE that she arranged with the government via the illegal ‘VIP lane’ procurement system, Rishi Sunak spoke up – and opened his own can of worms.

All he did was say he couldn’t speak about the issue because it was under investigation, but that the government is taking it “incredibly seriously”.

But this seems to have triggered Lady Moan:

Later the same day, she posted the following on ‘X’:

The Good Law Project, which has been investigating the PPE procurement scandal in order to launch court proceedings of its own, chimed in with the factual information that was available to it as a result:

It seems clear that Sunak has his own questions to answer about profiteering from the Covid-19 crisis.

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But this is where the story becomes interesting: the next person to leap into the ring was Lord James Bethell – with information he had previously claimed not to have:

Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell called it a “Christmas miracle” – but it’s the context note added by other ‘X’ users that is useful here:

The note reads: “Lord Bethell has previously had a government lawyer issue a witness statement that he had lost his phone in early 2021 and lost all access to SMS and WhatsApp messages prior to that date. The message he has posted is dated 20202.”

So he should not have it, and a government lawyer issued an official statement to that effect – perhaps one of the government lawyers currently working on the accusations against Mone.

Here are a couple more ‘X’ posts, providing evidence about Bethell and his trustworthiness – or lack of it:

People have raised an obvious question about all this – but in fact there are several, which may be divided into two sets:

1. It seems clear that Bethell has regained access to his WhatsApp messages from 2020. Is he passing the machine from which he retrieved them over to the Covid inquiry? If not, why not?

2. Who is on the government team investigating Mone? Were any of them involved in the defence of Bethell over his WhatsApps? Were any involved in the procurement of PPE from PPE Medpro or Mone’s dialogue with the government via the ‘VIP lane’? If so, are there not clear conflicts of interest? Should these matters be handed over to a completely separate set of legal experts?


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Why wasn’t Rishi Sunak asked this one, simple question in the Covid inquiry?

Good question: “Just one more thing. If you had lost all your WhatsApp messages, why did you go to the High Court to stop the publication of them?”

“If you had lost all your WhatsApp messages, why did you go to the High Court to stop the publication of them?”

It’s a simple question but I don’t think we heard it when Rishi Sunak gave his evidence to the Covid inquiry.

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Shame. We could have heard this answer:


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Evasions and ‘apologies’: Boris Johnson at the Covid inquiry

Boris Johnson at the Covid inquiry: expansive hand gestures and facial expressions can’t hide the lack of remorse.

Boris Johnson seems to have taken part of his strategy for giving evidence to the Covid inquiry from Harry Potter.

In the fifth book of JK Rowling’s celebrated children’s series, the title character is accused of a crime and his trial is brought forward in an attempt to ensure that his head teacher is unable to attend in time and give evidence.

Today (December 6, 2023), Johnson arrived at the inquiry’s venue no less than three hours early, in an attempt to evade critics – hecklers, bereaved family members of those who died, and so on.

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In this, he appears to have succeeded. All he had to avoid on the street were questions from the press:

It didn’t stop him from being heckled while giving his evidence:

While the inquiry’s chair was right to have the hecklers removed – they were disrupting proceedings, their interruption highlighted the lack of any real apology in Johnson’s statement.

Here’s Professor Tim Wilson:

He’s right. The apology was “Sorry you’re not happy,” rather than “I apologise for my failure”.

The questions he faced seem to have been primarily about WhatsApp messages that passed between the then-prime minister, his advisers and staff during 2020 – in particular, those that went missing from a phone he stopped using on the pretext that it was a security risk.

After it was unlocked, technicians appear to have discovered that a “factory reset” was performed on that phone in January 2020, and then an attempt was made to put back the information that had been removed at that time in June of that year. Johnson denied knowledge of what a “factory reset” was, implying that he had nothing to do with this alleged activity.

Do you believe him?

In the event, it seems unlikely that the loss of this information mattered very much because Johnson’s advisers and staff passed the messages from him on their own WhatsApp accounts to the inquiry, so it was entirely possible to question him on issues of his government’s competence that were raised by those people during the period under discussion.

Here’s what he had to say:

Questions raised were whether there was an abusive/misogynistic atmosphere, how well the government performed, what the government’s members thought of each other and what they thought of the decisions that were taken.

The impression received by the inquiry so far, it seems, was one of “incompetence and disarray”.

Johnson tried to defend himself and the government, but you can judge for yourself how well he succeeded.

He said there was a distinction between the language used in the messages and the performance of the government, claiming that he “got an awful lot done”.

He dismissed concerns that were raised about the toxicity of his operation, saying prime ministers are constantly being lobbied to sack other members of the government, and opinions expressed by his top civil servants were part of the “day in, day out” running of a country.

He is continuing to give evidence so more will follow.


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Sunak refuses to hand WhatsApp messages. Covid Inquiry should take them anyway

Smartphone, dull user: Rishi Sunak doesn’t seem to know his WhatsApp messages are stored on a cloud and can be retrieved – if he hasn’t deliberately deleted them.

How ironic: on a day when the Tory government announces a plan to stop school pupils messing around with mobile phones, it turns out that not only a previous prime minister, but also the incumbent, have been using them irresponsibly.

Would it not be more prudent, therefore, to bring in a law demanding that a record is kept of all social media messages sent and received by government ministers, on both public and their own personal devices?

Here’s The Guardian to tell you what a naughty little boy Rishi Sunak has been:

Rishi Sunak has failed to hand over his WhatsApp messages from his time as chancellor to the Covid inquiry despite the high court ruling that ministers should disclose their communications for scrutiny.

In his witness statement to the public inquiry, seen by the Guardian, the prime minister claimed that he did “not have access” to the messages during the period running the Treasury because he had changed his phone several times and failed to back them up.

The inquiry, which begins hearing evidence on Tuesday for its second stage examining the government’s handling of the pandemic, had requested key communications sent during the pandemic, from the end of January 2020 to the end of February 2022.

Sunak became chancellor in February 2020 and his messages could include details of crucial pandemic decisions made by the Treasury including ‘eat out to help out’, bounce-back loans and the furlough scheme.

So his excuse is that he changed phones several times and didn’t back up the messages? No problem.

You see, 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.

So it doesn’t matter how many phones Sunak has been through – his messages will still be intact – unless he has personally deleted them, which would be a prosecutable offence in this instance.

The Guardian piece goes on to remind us that former prime minister Boris Johnson had been in trouble when it was revealed that the mobile phone he used from the start of the pandemic until April 2021 had been declared a security risk.

It says he refused to hand over its messages until it had been checked for safety by government officials – but has now handed over messages from June 2020 to April 2021.

The Guardian understands, however, that Johnson has told the inquiry that he has been unable to access messages between 31 January and 7 June 2020, significant dates in the first wave of the pandemic during which thousands of people died, despite the phone being in action until the following spring.

In the former prime minister’s witness statement, he suggests that other leading players in the government at the time – which could include Sunak, Michael Gove and Matt Hancock – could hand over their phones with WhatsApp or Signal messages on them instead. It is unclear whether Johnson has yet handed over his diaries.

So it seems there are several opportunities to get Sunak’s WhatsApps against his will:

The messages can be retrieved from the cloud, if he hasn’t simply deleted them and lied about doing so.

Or they can be harvested from the WhatsApp accounts of other members of the government of the day.

It will be interesting to see what happens now.

Will he come clean and either hand over the messages or admit deleting them? Or will he force the Covid Inquiry to drag them out of him or others?

And once they have been obtained, what stories will they tell?

Source: Sunak fails to hand WhatsApp messages from time as chancellor to Covid inquiry | Covid inquiry | The Guardian


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The news in tweets: Thursday, July 13, 2023

Martin Lewis: he’s really not happy with Oliver Dowden.

This one’s for all of you who want some real news alongside your daily revelations about “BBC presenter” – or who simply didn’t care about that ‘dead cat’ story.

Martin Lewis corrects the record after Oliver Dowden falsely claimed he supported the Tories

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis does not take kindly to suggestions that he supports any political party over the others.

So it was only to be expected that, after Oliver Dowden claimed he supported the government on a point in the government’s Mortgage Charter, he would be… miffed.

Here’s what he had to say:

For those of you who can’t (or can’t be bothered to) click on “Show more”, he continued: ‘…benches.”

‘I am party independent. I’ve had constructive conversations with both the Chancellor and the Shadow Chancellor about mortgage support.

‘I do not appreciate being used in party-political spats. It is correct that I support those specific measures in the mortgage charter, mainly as they were my suggestions (so in a way ‘they’re’ supporting what ‘I’ said) and both major parties proposed similar – but that should not be taken as a read-across to favouring any party, even just within the mortgage agenda.’

This Writer wondered, after PMQs, how many falsehoods Dowden would be caught out on in deputy Prime Minister’s Questions this week. I named two at the time.

This is another. How many more were there?

Join the demonstration to save ticket offices

This is happening today (Thursday, July 12, 2023). Information courtesy of the Peace and Justice Project founded by Jeremy Corbyn:

The government’s plans to close 1,000 ticket offices in England – this latest attack on railway workers – puts thousands of jobs at risk and, if these proposed changes go ahead, there will be serious implications on millions of elderly, disabled and vulnerable commuters who rely on the personal touch of a ticket office to arrange and support their travel.

We must resist these closures.

Tomorrow, the RMT is hosting a national day of action, leafleting and speaking to commuters outside train stations up and down the country. And in London there will be a demo outside Kings Cross with speakers including Jeremy Corbyn. Together, we must demand that ticket offices remain open – click here to find your nearest action.

The opposition to these ticket office closures has been immense, with commuters writing in to local papers, posting on social media and making it known that they oppose these closures. The government have also opened a consultation on these closures which closes in just two weeks. If you haven’t already, please fill in the consultation – click here, select your local train station and make your views known.

Write to your MP

You can also write to your MP and ask them to raise this issue in Parliament and support the campaign to save our ticket offices. You can use this letter-writing tool, created by our comrades at the RMT, which only takes a few minutes to fill out. As the consultation period is brief, it is absolutely vital that we ensure this issue is at the very top of the parliamentary agenda in the weeks to come.  Click on the link and demand your MP stands up for railway workers and the millions of commuters who rely on them to support their journeys.

Sign the petition to make sure the Tories stick to the law – and don’t send any refugees to Rwanda

Are we seriously being asked to believe nobody in Boris Johnson’s office or the government knows how to switch on a phone?

Look at this, which I believe is from the Covid Inquiry. Simon Case is the Cabinet Secretary and head of the civil service:

“I thought it was handed over” is legal-speak to avoid actually saying anything.

In fact, we all know the phone wasn’t handed over. Apparently Boris Johnson has a ‘team’, alongside people from – oh dear – the Cabinet Office, trying to switch on ‘Phone 1’, but none of them know how to do it.

They say they fear security breaches, because the phone’s number was public knowledge for 15 years before Johnson twigged that this might be a bad idea and switched it off in April 2021 (if you believe in that sort of thing).

In fact, if anyone interested in breaching the UK’s security wanted to hack that phone, they would have done it long before Johnson got near the “off” switch. Also, any compromising information in it should have been changed long ago. There really is no reason not to simply switch it back on.

Alternatively, since WhatsApp messages aren’t actually stored on the phone anyway, why don’t they all just access the cloud storage that actually does hold that information, as people (including This Writer) have been telling them to do for many months?

While the government was defending itself for painting over mural at one child refugee centre, it was painting over other murals at other centres

This is cruelty for its own sake:

Lords defeat Tory government again over Illegal Migration Bill


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The news in tweets: Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Who thought we could see this again? It perfectly sums up Boris Johnson’s behaviour towards the Covid Inquiry over his mobile phone and the WhatsApp messages therein.

Boris Johnson refuses to hand over mobile phone containing Covid WhatsApps by inquiry deadline

This is more complicated than it seems. If you were to take Carol Vorderman’s tweet at face value…

… you might think she was saying he hasn’t handed over any of the WhatsApp messages he received and sent at that time. This is not true.

The story is about “Phone 1” – the telephone he used up until April 2021, but (allegedly) switched off amid claims that it could have been hacked by a foreign power.

Johnson himself reckons he is trying to comply with the Covid Inquiry’s demand for the information but is working with government security officials on a way to turn on the old phone without creating a security emergency.

But here’s the thing: the security breach happened long ago – he switched the phone off (he says) because it emerged that his phone number had been public knowledge for 15 years. Apparently this means it could have been hacked.

In that case, it seems to sane people, he should have left it on and handed it to the security people two years ago, so they could work out what possibly compromising information could have been lifted from it by hostile foreign governments (or even teenage hackers living down the road).

He didn’t do that, so…

Yes. When will that happen?

Oh, and it should be possible to retrieve the WhatsApp messages by other means anyway. Why haven’t these “experts” tried that already?

Government response to ‘Kindertransport’ lord on removal of mural at child refugee centre is shockingly insensitive

Lord Alf Dubs, who was himself once a refugee from a foreign country (Germany before World War II – he was a Jewish child who arrived on the Kindertransport) asked the government why it cruelly ordered that a welcoming mural at a child refugee centre in Kent should be over-painted. Here’s the response:

Jessica Simor is right: it is incredibly insensitive of this Tory lord to tell a fellow peer – who was welcomed into the UK as a child – that national policy is now to make the country as unwelcoming as possible.

It seems the government has regressed – de-civilised – during the last 13 years of Tory misrule.

The big Tory wage lie

Read:

Why would the Tories say wages are rising at record rates?

Could it be to justify their demand that they need to be held down in order to slow inflation?

If so, it’s a false argument – as Richard Burgon makes clear:

Here’s some proof about the corporate profits:

Sainsbury’s wouldn’t be paying its chief executive so much if he wasn’t raking in the Long Green.

So it’s definitely the big profits that are pushing up inflation. And what is the Tory government doing about it?

Look:

And here’s a pertinent comment on that choice:

He’s joined in his crackdown on your livelihood by fellow millionaire Andrew Bailey, head honcho at the Bank of England:

Is this the reason Ed Balls tried to dominate the discussion of George Osborne’s wedding on Monday?


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Rishi Sunak’s costly Covid Inquiry legal challenge has failed – as expected

The High Court in London: once again, judges here have overruled the government, meaning Rishi Sunak and his followers were trying to break the law.

Well, it’s only money, isn’t it? And the behaviour of Rishi Sunak and the Cabinet Office shows that the UK clearly has oodles and boodles of long green to splash about.

Sunak’s government was warned before it launched its court bid to legalise its decision to withhold Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages, notebooks and diaries from the Covid Inquiry, that it was doomed to failure.

And now that failure has come to pass – at a huge cost to the public purse.

It turns out that one of the judges of this case, Lord Justice Dingemanns, is a rugby fanatic – so the media are full of comments that he has firmly kicked the government’s attempt at a Covid cover-up into touch.

He and co-judge Mr Justice Garnham have also applied common sense to the affair

and told the two sides to get together and work out what’s relevant to the COVID Inquiry and what’s not… The judges sensibly suggested that the Cabinet Office should appeal to Baroness Hallett about what’s relevant and let her decide.

Sunak and his civil servants have now backed down – a decision for which we should all be grateful as otherwise this could have gone all the way up to the Supreme Court.

But the whole affair has incensed campaigners including the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice

who not surprisingly have condemned the legal fight as “a desperate waste of time and money”.

Watch this develop into a swingeing attack on Sunak and his lackeys as the Covid Inquiry progresses – whenever any information that the Cabinet Office tried to censor comes to light.

Source: Rishi Sunak’s costly COVID Inquiry legal challenge was doomed to failure – and has now been kicked into touch | Politics News | Sky News


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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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Covid inquiry spotlight turns to Rishi Sunak – and he’s trying to squirm out of it

Rishi Sunak: this little howler pushed up Covid infections massively. If Rishi Sunak didn’t consult scientists before making it happen, he could be in serious trouble with the Covid inquiry. Is that why he’s trying to hide information from that investigation?

Allegations that the government ignored scientific advice during the Covid-19 pandemic have shifted the focus of the inquiry into its actions at that time onto Rishi Sunak and his ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ fiasco.

Here’s the gist:

The article says the inquiry will focus partly on Sunak – particularly over the way the Treasury failed to involve scientists in decisions and the formulation of policy.

Inquiry chair Baroness Hallett has sent questions to then-prime minister Boris Johnson, asking if scientific evidence and opinion was sought before ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ was launched…

which appears not to have been the case.

The Observer article states:

Prof John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who was a member of the Sage committee of advisers to ministers and who has submitted written evidence to the inquiry, said the controversial Eat Out to Help Out scheme – which gave people discounts for eating in restaurants and pubs – was never discussed with scientists.

Eat Out to Help Out was launched in August 2020. It allowed diners to claim 50% off more than 160m meals at a cost to the Treasury of about £850m. In the process, it also drove new Covid-19 infections up by between 8 and 17%, according to a study carried out by Thiemo Fetzer, an economist at the University of Warwick, a few weeks later.

“If we had [been consulted], I would have been clear what I thought about it,” said Edmunds. “As far as I am concerned, it was a spectacularly stupid idea and an obscene way to spend public money.”

That’s interesting, because Sunak himself is on video record as having insisted that he spoke to scientists about ‘Eat Out to Help Out’:

Another critical decision set to be investigated by Hallett was made in September 2020, when the government was urged by Sage to impose a mini-lockdown to dampen rising case numbers, with both Johnson and Sunak opposing the move.

“I said then that the question was either do it now and get on top of the epidemic and keep it under control, or be forced into doing it in a few weeks’ time, by which time the epidemic will be much worse,” Edmunds said.

“There will be many more hospitalisations and deaths, and you will have to take more stringent action. Unfortunately that is exactly what happened.”

Considering the accusations against him, it may be no surprise that Rishi Sunak’s government – through the Cabinet Office, is trying to deny the Covid inquiry access to WhatsApp messages between government ministers.

The claim is that it would be an invasion of privacy to let the inquiry have (for example) all of the WhatsApp messages Boris Johnson sent via his personal phone because they would include “unambiguously irrelevant” material.

But Sunak and the government want to be the arbiters of which material is relevant and which isn’t –

-and that creates a serious credibility problem: why should the organisation under investigation dictate what evidence is permissible or not?

The Cabinet Office – on behalf of Sunak’s government – has launched a judicial review to keep some of the WhatsApps (and other material) away from the inquiry. Apparently this is going to cost you, me and the rest of the UK public a fortune:

(Again: it won’t cost taxpayers’ money – it will cost public money. We then pay tax according to what the Treasury reckons is needed to keep inflation from going through the roof. You can probably tell that the current mob aren’t very good at making that prediction.)

(Oh – and we’re also funding the Covid inquiry, meaning we’re footing the bill for both sides in the dispute.)

But here’s a twist:

… Or is it?

It seems to me that it is actually reasonable to withhold the information on ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ from the Good Law Project – for the time being. The Cabinet Office has said it is handing “all relevant material to the Covid Inquiry – and ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ is definitely relevant to the Covid inquiry.

The claim – by the Cabinet Office – is that it has given all relevant information to the inquiry, so we would be justified in expecting the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ stuff to have gone there already.

Refusing to hand other information to the inquiry on grounds that it is not relevant does not contradict this claim.

But it makes the result of the judicial inquiry all the more important.

Because if the government wins in court, but doesn’t hand over information about ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ over to the inquiry, it will have no excuse not to hand it over to the Good Law Project.

Right?


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