The Daily Telegraph
Country distrusts Johnson and won’t follow his rules, said top civil servant
THE country’s most senior civil servant claimed that Boris Johnson was a “distrusted figure” and feared that the public would not follow isolation rules if they were set out by the then prime minister, The Telegraph can disclose.
A leaked cache of Whatsapp messages sent by government figures has revealed that Simon Case, the head of the Civil Service, told Matt Hancock that the public needed to be told to isolate by “trusted local figures, not nationally distrusted figures like the PM”.
The description of Mr Johnson is likely to be embarrassing for the Cabinet Secretary and potentially the former prime minister, as he appointed Mr Case. The conversation between the then health secretary and Mr Case took place on Oct 30 2020, as the Government was expanding its testing capability.
Mr Hancock told Mr Case that he was going to “get stuck in and drive this rollout”, adding the “PM is completely right on this. Delegate, delegate, delegate”.
Less than two minutes later, Mr Case responded “Agree. My concern is that we can figure out how to test, what we don’t know how to do is get people to isolate.
“We are losing this war because of behaviour – this is the thing we have to turn around (which probably also relies on people hearing about isolation from trusted local figures, not nationally distrusted figures like the PM, sadly).” The health secretary responded affirmatively to the proposed timeline, before writing: “We can fix the new isolation rules between now and then.”
I am going to get stuck in and drive this roll out. The PM is completely right on this. Delegate delegate delegate [30/10/2020, 11:30:19]
Agree. My concern is that we can figure out how to test, what we don’t know how to do is get people to isolate. We are losing this war because of behaviour – this is the thing we have to turn around (which probably also relies on people hearing about isolation from trusted local figures, not nationally distrusted figures like the PM, sadly) [30/10/2020, 11:32:07]
sure – but even with a massive rocket up them the lorries won’t roll until late next week – so we can fix the new isolation rules between now and then
The conversation took place less than two months after Mr Johnson had appointed Mr Case as head of the Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary. He succeeded Lord Sedwill in September 2020. Before that, he was Downing Street’s permanent secretary.
The exchange is part of a cache of data leaked to The Telegraph that spans the pandemic and Mr Case’s time in both positions. In another exchange, in June 2020, Mr Hancock wrote that the then prime minister had called to talk through the number of Covid cases.
The health secretary added that he had raised a piece of legislation and had explained it to Mr Johnson, and added that he “needed his help to drive it through”. Mr Case responded: “I think it suits us well to have him still focused on those numbers. Helps keep him honest, I think.”
FYI since our call the PM rang to talk through the numbers – he’s still worried at >1500 saily new cases – and I raised the Bill. He is very enthusiastic – I said I needed his help to drive it through [14/06/2020, 21:34:21]
I think it suits us well to have him still focused on those numbers. Helps keep him honest, I think.
The disclosures are likely to heap further pressure on Mr Case.
On Feb 16 2021, shortly after Britain had introduced hotel quarantine for holidaymakers who were returning from specific countries, Mr Case asked: “Any idea how many people we locked up in hotels yesterday?”
Mr Hancock responded: “None. But 149 chose to enter the country and are
now in Quarantine Hotels due to their own free will!
Mr Case responded with a single word: “Hilarious.”
It comes after The Telegraph revealed that Mr Case was accused of Left-wing bias by senior Tories after he dismissed concerns that had been raised about Covid rules as “pure Conservative ideology”.
Mr Case also said Rishi Sunak was “going bonkers” in a row over contact tracing and that Sir Alok Sharma, then business secretary, would be “mad” to oppose it.
In another Whatsapp exchange, about quarantine for travellers, Mr Case said he wanted “to see some of the faces of people coming out of first class into a Premier Inn shoe box”.
On Saturday, Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, was forced to make a statement declaring that Mr Case retained his “confidence”.
Mr Case has come under intense pressure over his handling of a series of controversies, including partygate, wallpapergate, the Dominic Raab bullying row and Boris Johnson’s home loan, and these latest disclosures risk further undermining his position as the country’s top civil servant.
Leaked Whatsapp messages reveal that during the pandemic Mr Case claimed that Sir Alok’s opposition to compelling hospitality venues to keep customers’ details stemmed from “pure Conservative ideology”.
Esther Mcvey, a former minister of state for housing and planning, secretary of state for work and pensions and minister of state for employment, led widespread criticism of Mr Case’s conduct.
She said: “This is the highest civil servant in the land letting the cat out of the bag by suggesting that one of the most centrist of Conservative MPS was pursuing ‘pure Conservative ideology’ simply for questioning some of the lockdown rules.
“Leaving aside the fact that this is a Conservative government – and so what would he expect from its ministers – if Mr Case thinks Alok Sharma was pursuing such a hardline Conservative ideology it can only mean that he is yet another senior civil servant on the Left wing of British politics.”