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17 March 2023

Loose-lipped Rachel Johnson reveals Simon Case’s new WhatsApp policy

The journalist also hit out at the “incestuous” relationship in Westminster between politicians and the media lobby.

By The Chatterer

Props to Rachel Johnson, the journalist and sister of the former prime minister, Boris. She provided great value for money for attendees of the Society of Editors’ Media Freedom Conference in London on Wednesday, 15 March. 

Chairing a panel discussion on the press, politics and police, Johnson provided her audience of journalists with something of a scoop on Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, who has come under pressure over leaked WhatsApp messages that have come to light in the Telegraph’s Lockdown Files. (One message showed Case saying it was “hilarious” that holidaymakers were being “locked up” in quarantine hotels.)

“I had to be in contact with Simon Case about something a month or so ago,” said Johnson. “And when I was WhatsApping him, my WhatsApps disappeared because he’s now set his phone so that all his WhatsApps disappear immediately.” She added: “I think they disappear within hours, even. You know, so there’s no record of all the things he’s said to me.” 

[See also: Is Boris Johnson coming back?]

(Without wishing to overcomplicate this story, the Chatterer would note as well that, in January, Johnson said Case had questions to answer in the row over whether the BBC chairman Richard Sharp played a role in a loan-guarantee arrangement between Boris Johnson and the former PM’s distant cousin Sam Blyth.)

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Johnson also made it clear on the panel that she is no fan of the Westminster journalists’ lobby system. “We’ve just seen Rishi Sunak go off to San Diego with the lobby to really talk about very detailed defence matters,” she said to her panel, which included journalists from the Sunday Times and Daily Mirror. “It struck me – why did he take the lobby? What does this tell us about the way the media and the government are sort of hand-in-glove and complicit in the stories that we read? Why was the lobby on the jet, not the defence editor?”

She later equated the lobby to a “cartel”, noted that some journalists are married to politicians, and added that “it’s so incestuous, the lobby system. It’s a sort of crucible, if you will, of the incestuous nature of so much of the media and the police, and the media and government. Isn’t it?”

After a follow-up audience question, Johnson invited her panel to comment on whether there is too much of an incestuous relationship between the press, Westminster and the police. 

Afterwards, she mused aloud that “maybe I should have asked whether it was too nepotistic, as well as incestuous, but that’s for another panel”.

Sign the Chatterer up for that!

Read more:

Boris Johnson’s comeback is dangerously plausible

Boris Johnson has the ultimate case of main character syndrome

Ukraine deserves better than Boris Johnson

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