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Boris Johnson – latest: Ex-PM goes over Sunak’s head to send unredacted WhatsApps ‘directly’ to inquiry

WhatsApp row rumbles on as ex-PM vows to bypass government and send information straight to inquiry

Sunak refuses to rule out court action against Covid Inquiry

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Louise Thomas

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Boris Johnson has told the Covid-19 Inquiry that he is willing to hand over “all unredacted WhatsApp” messages – including 2020 material from a previous phone discarded for security reasons.

The former prime minister is under fire once again after it emerged on Thursday that he had only handed over Covid-related messages from May 2021 or later to Cabinet Office officials.

In a letter to inquiry chair Baroness Hallett, Mr Johnson said he would today hand over all the material already given to the Cabinet Office “in unredacted form” to her team.

Earlier, a minister said Rishi Sunak’s legal bid to prevent the inquiry from obtaining WhatsApp messages sent by Boris Johnson to government colleagues during the pandemic was likely to fail.

Science minister George Freeman, appearing on BBC Question Time, insisted the Cabinet Office decision to launch judicial review proceedings was not a “cynical waste of time” but admitted he thought the prospect of success unlikely.

The Cabinet Office is seeking a judicial review of inquiry chairwoman Baroness Hallett’s order to release the documents, arguing it should not have to hand over irrelevant material.


Breaking: Johnson vows to send unredacted WhatsApps direct to chair

Boris Johnson said he would share with the Covid inquiry all the unredacted WhatsApps he provided to the Cabinet Office, as well as material from his old mobile phone.

In his letter to chairwoman Baroness Hallett, he wrote: “I am sending your inquiry all unredacted WhatsApps I provided to the Cabinet Office.

“I would like to do the same with any material that may be on an old phone which I have been previously been told I can no longer access safely.

“In view of the urgency of your request I believe we need to test this advice, which came from the security services.

“I have asked the Cabinet Office for assistance in turning it on securely so that I can search it for all relevant material.

“I propose to pass all such material directly to you.”,

Adam Forrest reports:

Britain Coronavirus Inquiry
Britain Coronavirus Inquiry (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Matt Mathers2 June 2023 10:48

We’re pausing our live coverage for this evening, we’ll bring you the latest updates as we get them.

Natalie Crockett2 June 2023 22:04

Swing voters most worried about Labour’s cost of living plan, poll finds

Exclusive: Swing voters’ main concerns about Labour are revealed in new polling that shows nearly a third are worried the party will not do a better job of tackling the cost of living crisis than the Tories:

New poll reveals top fears for swing voters that stop them backing Labour

Exclusive: Voters also say they are unsure what Labour stands for and are concerned party will raise raise taxes once in power

Jane Dalton2 June 2023 20:15

Brexit: Things can only get better, say experts

Experts at an Independent online event agreed there were changes that could be made, either by a Labour government or a Conservative one, over the next few years that would make trade easier without Britain going back into the EU single market or customs union:

Brexit: ‘Things can only get better’ say experts

The problems of Brexit red tape have hit “low ebb”, according to David Henig, the independent trade adviser, in an Independent online event on Thursday. From this new baseline, “things can only get better”.

Jane Dalton2 June 2023 19:19

Six in 10 say government should hand over all material

More than six in 10 Britons believe the government should have to provide all messages requested, a new poll suggests.

According to YouGov, 61 per cent said ministers should do so.

But 23 per cent said they should only have to provide messages that the government thinks are relevant to the inquiry.

Jane Dalton2 June 2023 18:35

Risk of accessing Johnson’s old mobile ‘minimal'

The potential risks of accessing Boris Johnson’s old mobile phone to retrieve WhatsApps for the Covid-19 inquiry are minimal, a cyber-security expert has said.

“His phone wasn’t hacked, it hadn’t been compromised or any such thing,” Alan Woodward, a professor at the University of Surrey, told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.

“Asking the Cabinet Office to help him do it securely is quite sensible - and they can.

“They’ve got the facilities to do it. It really wouldn’t take much to turn the phone on and get those messages off quite safely.”

He added that “in terms of recovering those messages, it’s perfectly possible to do that without exposing it to the potential threat”.

Jane Dalton2 June 2023 17:45

ICYMI: 150 questions the Covid inquiry wants Boris Johnson to answer

The Covid inquiry has sent Boris Johnson a list of 150 questions and requests for his witness statement, documents released by the Cabinet Office have shown.

Key questions the former PM has been asked include:

  • Did you say ‘let the bodies pile high’?
  • Was there any scientific evidence on Eat Out to Help Out?
  • Did the Cabinet secretary really suggest Covid ‘chickenpox parties?’
  • Did you really say you felt ‘manipulated’ by scientists into imposing a lockdown?
  • When and how did you first learn of Covid?

Jon Stone has more:

150 questions the Covid inquiry wants Boris Johnson to answer

Covid Inquiry to investigate whether ex prime minister said ‘let the bodies pile high’

Matt Mathers2 June 2023 17:00

ICYMI: Suspended Labour MP ‘boasted about taking prostitutes to parliament’

A MP suspended by the party Labour over sexual harassment allegations is facing fresh claims he “boasted” about bringing sex workers into parliamentary bars.

Geraint Davies has been suspended pending an investigation into reports of “incredibly serious allegations of completely unacceptable behaviour”.

One woman has submitted a formal complaint, after Politico initially reported that five other women made sexual harassment claims against the politician. The MP said he did not “recognise” the claims.

Adam Forrest reports:

Suspended Labour MP ‘boasted about taking prostitutes to parliament’

‘Well known’ that Geraint Davies would ‘show off’ sex workers, Labour MP and peer claim

Matt Mathers2 June 2023 16:10

ICYMI: Brexit was ‘historic economic error’, says ex-US Treasury chief

Brexit was a “historic economic error” which has helped fuel high inflation in the UK, the former US Treasury chief Larry Summers has said.

The senior American economist also said he would be “very surprised” if Britain avoids a recession in the next two years.

Mr Summers said Brexit and other policies mean Britain’s economic woes are “frankly more acute than they are in most other major countries.”

Adam Forrest reports:

Brexit was ‘historic economic error’, says ex-US Treasury chief

UK’s exit from EU helped fuel inflation crisis, says top US economist Larry Summers

Matt Mathers2 June 2023 15:38

‘Eat out to get Covid’: Is this the real reason Rishi Sunak wants to hold back the WhatsApps?

The former chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme helped to lift the post-lockdown gloom, but might come back to bite him as PM, writes Andrew Grice.

Read Andrew’s full piece here:

Is this the real reason Rishi Sunak wants to hold back the WhatsApps?

The former chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme helped to lift the post-lockdown gloom, but might come back to bite him as PM, writes Andrew Grice

Matt Mathers2 June 2023 15:08

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