Penny Mordaunt Just Brought Attention Back To Boris Johnson's Missing WhatsApps

Her statement to the Covid Inquiry will raise some tricky questions for the ex-PM.
Penny Mordaunt weighed in on Boris Johnson's mysterious, missing WhatsApps
Penny Mordaunt weighed in on Boris Johnson's mysterious, missing WhatsApps

Penny Mordaunt was not afraid to bring Boris Johnson’s missing WhatsApps back into the spotlight in her written statement to the Covid Inquiry on Tuesday.

Currently the leader of the Commons, Mordaunt also served in Johnson’s cabinet as paymaster general before being appointed as an international trade minister.

She told the inquiry that messages with her former boss had suddenly vanished from her phone, and alleged his chief of staff ignored her when she tried to discuss the matter – on 14 different occasions.

Approximately 5,000 of Johnson’s messages – dating from January 2020 to June 2020 – are missing.

WhatsApp exchanges between top officials have made up an essential part of the Covid Inquiry’s evidence when examining how decisions were made at the start of the pandemic.

The former PM claims not to have deleted any messages himself, and has suggested there must have been been a technical issue.

During his two-day grilling at the inquiry earlier this month, Johnson said: “I haven’t removed WhatsApps from my phone. I want to make that clear. I have given everything you need.”

Mordaunt said Cabinet Office officials told her it would cost £40,000 to look at her phone to find out where her messages with her one-time boss had gone.

Her own research reportedly concluded that it would have cost closer to £1,000.

She said in her written statement that media reports in May 2021 scrutinising the government’s handling of care homes led her to check her messages about “the issue of shielding in care homes” with Johnson.

Mordaunt said she then found no messages to or from Johnson between March 2018 and March 2020.

But, she did acknowledge Johnson changed his phone number in May 2021 after it was released online, and said she “was not sure” if the two events were related.

“After some time it was suggested to us that because of a security breach the PM may have deleted all his messages and switched off his phone,” Mordaunt’s statement said. “However, this was portrayed to me as speculation on the part of the No 10 security team and would not explain why I had some messages and not others.”

Her subsequent 14 attempts to meet with Johnson’s chief of staff Dan Rosenfield were then reportedly unsuccessful.

Mordaunt said they “had no response from his team, despite my office chasing this”.

The Tory MP added that she would be “content” for her own phone to be examined by the inquiry, noting that two other sets of messages, involving then chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, had also vanished.


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