‘That’s bull****’: Boris Johnson’s text that put Dominic Cummings ‘in the clear’ over allegations that he revealed details of second lockdown – as top civil servant says the ‘Chatty Rat’ may never be found
- Prime Minister is said to have sent message to Cummings to put him in the clear
- Mr Cummings also reportedly received a text absolving him of culpability
- Cabinet Secretary Simon Case told MPs that the leak inquiry is still ongoing
It came as Britain’s top civil servant admitted that the person responsible for the leak may never be found.
The Prime Minister is said to have sent a text message to Mr Cummings, his former No10 chief of staff, to put him in the clear.
Boris Johnson texted Dominic Cummings to say allegations that he was the ‘chatty rat’ who revealed details of the second lockdown were ‘bull****’, it was claimed last night
Mr Cummings also reportedly received a text absolving him of culpability from Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, who is said to have told him that he authorised the Downing Street press office to say he was not the ‘chatty rat’.
Mr Case told MPs yesterday that the leak inquiry is still ongoing, almost six months on, and has not yet identified the culprit. He insisted that Mr Johnson had been determined to find the leaker, however, after Mr Cummings claimed the Prime Minister had considered blocking the probe.
The leak inquiry was triggered last autumn after newspapers were tipped off – by a source later dubbed a ‘chatty rat’ – that new Covid restrictions were being considered. It forced Mr Johnson to announce the national lockdown earlier than planned in a press conference late on October 31.
At the time, he told Tory MPs: ‘Let me assure you that the leak was not a No10 briefing and indeed we have launched an inquiry to catch the culprit.’
But when asked about the progress of the Cabinet Office investigation yesterday, Mr Case told MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee: ‘What I can say is the investigation is ongoing and this is a clear indication that the source or sources haven’t been identified.
The Prime Minister is said to have sent a text message to Mr Cummings, his former No10 chief of staff, to put him in the clear
‘In the time that has now passed, I think it is probable the team will not successfully identify the source or sources but work is ongoing.’
He said he hoped the investigation would be finished within ‘weeks rather than months’.
Questioned on whether the Government had actually wanted to find out who had been behind the damaging leak, he insisted: ‘I think there was widespread anger not only in Government but beyond this leak that related to a vital part of our Covid response. Certainly from the outset the Prime Minister, other ministers, teams and everybody was determined to try and find out who was responsible.’
Asked if any investigations had been stopped because the outcome could have been embarrassing, Mr Case said: ‘No, in relation to this particular leak and others, the Prime Minister has always been clear, very determined to see these inquiries complete.’
He also denied the inquiry had been kicked into the long grass, saying: ‘I can assure you that this hasn’t been de-prioritised in any way, but as you picked up these things are incredibly complicated, complex inquiries, usually with a range of threads to them.’
However, he admitted the leak was not a crime, as it was judged to be neither a breach of the Official Secrets Act nor the offence of misconduct in public office.
In this file photo taken on September 3, 2019, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings leave from the rear of Downing Street in central London, before heading to the Houses of Parliament
He would not say if MI5 had been involved in the investigation.
And Mr Case repeatedly declined to comment on Mr Cummings’s claim that he had been exonerated of being the ‘chatty rat’.
The Cabinet Secretary replied: ‘I am constrained in what I can say because it’s in the context of an ongoing investigation.’
Asked if it was acceptable for him to have appeared before the committee but refused to answer questions, he said: ‘I’m afraid it’s necessary to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation, and the techniques involved.’
He said the Government Security Group, which oversees physical and cyber security across Whitehall, had advised he should not provide detail on the leak inquiry. But he confirmed Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle had been given an update on it in recent weeks.