Cabinet Secretary Simon Case
intervened after concern that some texts from the Prime Minister’s official account
on the messaging service appeared to have been sent by someone other than him
In a separate development, Mr Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds
is understood to have been overheard ‘prompting’ him
in the background during confidential phone calls
to ministers and officials.
The extraordinary WhatsApp dispute follows a move by Mr Johnson earlier this month to extend the use of a secret Downing Street WhatsApp group
for routine messages to sensitive affairs of state
They include highly confidential policy decisions and instructions to fellow Cabinet ministers and mandarins. In the past such matters were dealt with via traditional printed papers in the Prime Minister’s Whitehall ‘Red Box’ – which were returned by him, signed by hand.
Mr Case raised fears about Mr Johnson’s new practice, described by one official as ‘government by WhatsApp’. Officials said the style of some of the texted replies appeared markedly different from the Prime Minister’s own distinctive style. But he refused to go back to the old method.
‘Paper documents have proved secure over decades. Unlike texts, you can see the PM’s handwritten jottings in the margins and signature.’ Mr Case is said to have raised the issue with Mr Reynolds, who said the Prime Minister would not drop the WhatsApp move.
Mr Johnson is a member of several WhatsApp groups, ranging from policy forums to briefings for Conservative MPs.
Miss Symonds hosts regular soirees at the Downing Street flat and weekend gatherings at Chequers for her network of friends, mainly Tory political advisers and selected journalists. Mr Johnson is present at some, but not all, of these get-togethers.
Mr Case, Downing Street and the Cabinet Office all declined to comment.