WhipsApp Westminster Leaks: OxYou Political Analysis
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The new public enquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the Cummings and goings of a Westminster WhatsApp group. The previously secretive group chats were exposed by former Chief Adviser turned whistle-blower Dominic Cummings after he and other ministers got fed up with being asked to read over Hancock’s applications to reality shows. The content of these chats is sure to cause internal stirrings in parliament as well, not least because Suella Braverman discovered there was a second, more active, group chat without her.
The leaks have exposed key insights into how a room full of men with a degree In PPE failed to reach vital consensus on PPE when it mattered most. Ministers complained of a ‘macho culture’ surrounding the COVID handling, citing examples such as the chat being named “Downing Street DILFS” in a completely inappropriate erasure of the female members of the cabinet.
Former cabinet ministers deposed at the enquiry have recounted a grim scene of bullying and incompetence. Described by one minister as “unworkably bad”, it was revealed that “Boris would only reply to certain ministers with Fortnite dance gifs” and forced members of the cabinet to maintain a Southampton backline in their fantasy league squad all season. OxYou can also bring you exclusive insight into material circulated by the Prime Minister before and during Downing Street COVID briefings, including Eurovision sweepstakes and a YouTube link to video entitled “fat man falls in pool”.
Shockingly unsurprising disregard for the NHS was also on display within the chat: at the height of the pandemic Chris Whitty shared vital statistics about the potential collapse of two major NHS hospitals to which Johnson replied “lmao”. In mitigation, the former PM claimed that this message was a reaction to his own earlier link to “fat man falls in pool” and not a reflection of his stance towards the NHS’s functional integrity.
OxYou Political Analysis – Kaura Loonsberg
A particularly illuminating aspect of this inquiry is the recovery of images sent by the then Prime Minister to the parliamentary group chat. OxYou’s political editor Kaura Loonsberg breaks down what images recovered from the Parliamentary WhatsApp chat may suggest about the former Prime Minister’s handling of the pandemic.
The main theme of the public enquiry has focused on the unclear rules of social media use in British diplomatic conduct. Scotland’s First Minister’s Friday comments implied that the government didn’t erase vital messages and were unaware that their WhatsApp communications were breaking any rules. This image may suggest otherwise.
Since the start of the pandemic there have been questions about how the pressures of the Prime Minister’s personal life impacted upon his ability to manage the COVID response. This image appears to suggest that Johnson’s highly publicised divorce and subsequent remarriage may have been a distracting element in his professional conduct.
Johnson has been criticised for a lack of urgent response to the arrival of the COVID-19 variant in the UK, a lack of action which invariably left Britain unprepared to face the outbreak. This recovered image, sent by the then Prime Minister, solemnly confirms both public and professional sentiment that the former Prime Minister did not seriously appreciate the dangers of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 parliamentary enquiry is ongoing. OxYou will provide further coverage as more emerges in the following weeks.