Johnson has been using a personal mobile phone to text Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman & billionaire Sir James Dyson in defiance of his own security guidance.
The UK prime minister is already battling a stream of accusations related to the misuse of public finances and poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boris Johnson has been using a personal mobile phone to text Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and billionaire Sir James Dyson in defiance of his own security guidance, The Times reported, citing legal documents.
Following the Conservatives’ spectacular win in the 2019 general election, Johnson’s ministers were given classified advice not to use “personal devices, email and communication applications for government business at any clarification”, according to the paper.
The document in question, titled ‘The Security of Government Business’, reportedly warned that ministers’ personal mobile phones and email accounts were not as secure as those given by government departments and could be hacked.
However, Boris Johnson has apparently ignored his own policy.
Was Johnson Unaware of the Policy?
The advice reportedly came to light after campaign group Foxglove and non-profit organisation The Citizens filed a legal case against the government, urging ministers to stop “making major decisions over apps like WhatsApp and Signal, where messages can be set to disappear.”
“It is astonishing that it has taken our legal action to uncover the fact that the government actually has a secret policy banning the use of WhatsApp messages and private emails for government business,” Clara Maguire, executive director of The Citizens, told The Times.
Foxglove’s director, Cori Crider, also questioned whether the British prime minister “ever bothered to read his own secret policy banning ministers” using personal phones and applications.
The report suggests that the prime minister used his personal phone to text with the Saudi prince about a potential takeover of Newcastle United football club which never materialised.
Meanwhile, Johnson also apparently did the same while exchanging messages with billionaire Dyson about tax arrangements for his company’s staffers, with the expectation that the workers would be coming to the UK to supply ventilators needed during the first wave of COVID pandemic. Johnson reportedly promised Dyson to “fix” the issue.
The alleged content of the semi-personal conversations between Johnson and the two powerful figures was first revealed back in April, sparking a new turn in the ongoing row over lobbying rules in Westminster.
An unnamed Downing Street source later told the British media that messages between the prime minister, Dyson and Prince Mohammad bin Salman were leaked by Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief adviser who left the office in November 2020.
“Dominic is engaged in systematic leaking. We are disappointed about that. We are concerned about messages from private WhatsApp groups which had very limited circulation,” a source told the Times back then.
Cummings later denied the accusations, saying that it was “sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity.”
Following his scandalous departure from Downing Street, Cummings has repeatedly accused Johnson of poor leadership skills and slammed the “awful” handling of the COVID-19 health crisis in the UK.
The accusations of private usage of phones to conduct business deals will only add to the pool of allegations against the British prime minister. As such, Cummings has also previously accused his former boss of planning to secure political donations to pay for renovations of his 11 Downing Street apartment that had reportedly cost him a whopping sum of £200,000.
Following the new reports, a Cabinet spokesperson told the Times that not all of the conversations involving ministers will be counted as government business but “significant content related to government business from such discussions is passed back to officials.”