Boris Johnson has accused his former top aide Dominic Cummings of being the ‘Chatty Rat’ who leaked his private texts, reports say.
The Prime Minister is said to have pointed the finger at the Vote Leave mastermind, who quit Downing Street in November after a power struggle.
Mr Johnson reportedly thinks Mr Cummings was ‘bitter’ following his exit from No 10 – but was ‘saddened’ about the messages being dished out to reporters.
Three national newspapers all published comments from insiders naming the Brexit supremo as the ‘Chatty Rat’.
An internal inquiry has been launched into how messages between the Prime Minister and billionaire Sir James Dyson were leaked to journalists.
An internal inquiry has been launched into how messages between the Prime Minister (pictured on Thursday) and billionaire Sir James Dyson were leaked to journalists
The Prime Minister is said to have pointed the finger at the Vote Leave mastermind, who quit Downing Street in November after a power struggle (pictured)
A No 10 source told the Sun Mr Johnson ‘fears Dom was responsible for the text message leaks about James Dyson and Mohammed bin Salman’
No10 launches official probe into leak of Boris Johnson’s private texts to Sir James Dyson
Downing Street today declared that a formal leak inquiry is under way after Boris Johnson’s private texts to James Dyson emerged.
After stopping short of ordering an investigation yesterday, the PM’s spokesman said the Cabinet Office will now be looking into how the messages were made public.
The move comes amid Tory fears of a civil service mole trying to sabotage the government. The BBC revealed that Mr Johnson promised billionaire inventor Sir James he would ‘fix’ a tax rule so his staff could help make ventilators for the NHS.
The PM’s spokesman said: ‘I can confirm that yes, we have instructed the Cabinet Office to look into this. The position has changed from yesterday.’
He refused to say what had sparked the shift, saying: ‘As you would expect we continually look at this and the position we decided today is that we want to make sure that we have this internal inquiry. So the Cabinet Office will be getting that under way.
‘It is to get into the source of leaks of private communication of the Prime Minister … as it relates to this issue with Dyson. It is limited to that.’
A source told the Times: ‘Dominic is engaged in systematic leaking. We are disappointed about that.
‘We are concerned about messages from private WhatsApp groups which have very limited circulation.’
The source suggested the Prime Minister was ‘saddened’ and Mr Cummings was ‘bitter’ after his exit from No 10.
The texts to Sir James, where the PM promised he would ‘fix’ a tax issue for staff developing ventilators, was not the first time his messages have been made public.
Mr Johnson was sent a text message by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a bid to buy Newcastle United ran into difficulties last June
A No 10 source told the Sun Mr Johnson ‘fears Dom was responsible for the text message leaks about James Dyson and Mohammed bin Salman’.
The Telegraph said it is understood Mr Cummings would have had legitimate access to the messages while he worked at No 10.
A source told the newspaper: ‘If you join the dots it looks like it’s coming from Dom.’
Another leak being blamed on the 49-year-old was the revelation a second lockdown was being planned last autumn.
Leaks have continued into this year, including claims Mr Johnson asked Tory party chiefs to pay for Miss Symonds’ costly makeover of the couple’s Downing Street flat.
Mr Cummings has not replied to the accusations. Since leaving No 10 he has made only one major intervention – before the science select committee last month.
He attacked ‘horrific’ Whitehall bureaucracy and branded the Department of Health a ‘smoking ruin’ when Covid struck.
The source suggested the Prime Minister was ‘saddened’ and Mr Cummings was ‘bitter’ after his exit from No 10. They are pictured together in 2019
Mr Johnson was sent a text message by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a bid to buy Newcastle United ran into difficulties last June. Pictured: 2018
The former Vote Leave mastermind worked closely with Mr Johnson on the Brexit campaign and was a major figure in No 10 after the Prime Minister took office.
The PM stood by him after Mr Cummings found himself in the eye of a media storm after driving his family to County Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.
But Mr Cummings was later ousted from No 10 amid the fallout from an internal power struggle with the Prime Minister’s fiancee Carrie Symonds.
No 10 had initially said there would not be a probe into how the exchange with Sir James was made public.
But a change of course was announced on Thursday as it said an internal inquiry will be led by the Cabinet Office.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: ‘I can confirm that, yes, we have instructed the Cabinet Office to look into this.
‘The position has changed from yesterday – it was correct at the time yesterday but, as usual, we keep things under review and we have now decided to undertake this internal inquiry.
‘As you would expect, we continually look at this and the position we decided today is that we want to make sure we have this internal inquiry into that.’
The spokesman confirmed the inquiry will examine the source of leaks of Mr Johnson’s private communication ‘as related to this issue of Dyson’.
Mr Cummings was later ousted from No 10 amid the fallout from an internal power struggle with the Prime Minister’s fiancee Carrie Symonds (pictured with her dog in 2019)
The BBC reported the messages between Mr Johnson and Sir James were exchanged in March last year after the businessman was unable to get the assurances he was seeking from the Treasury.
Sir James, who has changed his main address in business filings to the UK from Singapore, wrote to the Treasury requesting his staff would not have to pay additional tax if they came to the UK to work on the ventilator project.
Text exchange between Boris Johnson and Sir James Dyson over the tax status of his employees
Dyson: ‘We are ready. But nobody seems to want us to proceed. Sadly, James’
Johnson: ‘I will fix it tomo! We need you. It looks fantastic’
Johnson: ‘Rishi says it is fixed!! We need you here’
Dyson: ‘Thanks! I will give the ventilator our all. James’
Dyson: ‘Dear Boris, I’m afraid that we need a response to our letter below from Rishi please? We really need Rishi to answer the letter we sent (attached) – now. Or to make the position clear. Rishi has fixed the Country Day Count issue but not Work Days. The former is now covered under an ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ umbrella, Work Days are not. So, he has freed up your ability to be in the UK but not to work there – even in support of this National emergency.’
Johnson: ‘James I am first lord of the treasury and you can take it that we are backing you to do what you need.’
Just two weeks later, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told MPs that those coming into the UK to offer help during the pandemic would not see a change in their tax status.
But when he failed to receive a reply, Sir James reportedly took up the matter directly with the Prime Minister.
He said in a text the firm was ready but ‘sadly’ it seemed no-one wanted them to proceed. Mr Johnson replied: ‘I will fix it tomo! We need you. It looks fantastic.’
The Prime Minister then texted him again saying: ‘(Chancellor) Rishi (Sunak) says it is fixed!! We need you here.’
Two weeks later, Mr Sunak told the Commons Treasury Committee the tax status of people who came to the UK to provide specific help during the pandemic would not be affected.
Downing Street said it will publish correspondence between Mr Johnson and Sir James ‘shortly’.
Tories yesterday thought the messages could only have come from civil servants who would have been shown records under government rules.
But others suggested Mr Johnson circulates similar kinds of private messages quite freely among aides.
A government source stressed the way the leaks had emerged might not be straightforward.
The source said: ‘It could be several places not just the obvious one.’
MPs also raised the alarm about civil service sabotage.
One former ministers said the PM would have been obliged to disclose the messages to officials, and highlighted the slew of recent leaks over alleged cronyism and the Greensill lobbying row.
Another MP told MailOnline: ‘There is a horrible leaker in the Cabinet Office or No10.’
The Prime Minister earlier told the Commons he was ‘happy to share all the details’ of the exchanges.
The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister said in the House he’s happy to share all the details with the House, as he shared them with his officials.
‘That’s what we’re working on, we’re pulling together that information, it will be published shortly.’
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said Mr Johnson ‘averted an even greater crisis’ on ventilators last spring with his text exchanges with Sir James.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng (pictured) said Mr Johnson ‘averted an even greater crisis’ on ventilators last spring with his text exchanges with Sir James
He told Sky News: ‘I don’t think it’s unfair in the sense that people are trying to lobby ministers, lobby MPs, all the time. In this particular instance, I think we’re trying to create a story where there isn’t one.
‘The Prime Minister was very clear yesterday that he would have done exactly the same thing again, he had a duty, as far as he was concerned, to make sure that we got ventilators made here in the UK.
‘At the time, as you will remember, there was a huge crisis in Italy precisely because they hadn’t produced enough ventilators, and that was the thing that we had to do.
‘He moved, in his words, the Prime Minister said, he moved heaven and earth to try and make sure we got ventilators made here in the UK.’
He added: ‘That’s what happened – it averted an even greater crisis and it saved lives.’
Mr Kwarteng said it was ‘very good’ that business leaders and constituents had ‘direct access’ to ministers and those making decisions in Whitehall.
He told Sky: ‘I think that in the real world, in reality, people are contacting ministers, contacting MPs, all the time.
‘Business people are contacting MPs all the time, constituents also contact me on my phone.
‘I think that in a modern democracy it’s very good that people actually can have direct access to ministers and people who are taking responsibility.’
Meanwhile, the PM’s spokesman did not deny reports Cabinet Secretary Simon Case advised Mr Johnson to change his phone number over concerns about the ease with which lobbyists and business leaders were able to contact him.
Meanwhile, the PM’s spokesman did not deny reports Cabinet Secretary Simon Case (pictured) advised Mr Johnson to change his phone number over concerns about the ease with which lobbyists and business leaders were able to contact him
The spokesman said: ‘We don’t get into details of the advice provided between a Cabinet Secretary and a Prime Minister, and so I’m not going to do that in this instance.’
He has reportedly intervened in the claims the Tory Party secretly paid £58,000 towards the bill – and then tried to cover it up.
The dramatic development comes two days after the Daily Mail published leaked emails from Conservative donor Lord Brownlow to Tory Party co-chairman Ben Elliot.
The emails showed Lord Brownlow told Mr Elliot last October he had paid £58,000 to Tory HQ to cover the same amount spent by the party months earlier on the flat refit.
The £58,000 was to be attributed as having come not from Lord Brownlow or the Tory Party but from a ‘soon to be formed Downing St Trust’ that had not yet been formed – and still does not exist, officially.
Well-placed sources said it was proof of an attempt to cover up the way party funds were secretly used to help pay for the refurbishment of Mr Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds’ Number 11 Downing Street official flat.
The makeover, which included expensive wallpaper, by interior designer Lulu Lytle reportedly cost a six-figure sum.
It is claimed Tory donor Lord Brownlow covered £58,000 of the costs for the makeover which included expensive wallpaper by interior designer Lulu Lytle, pictured an example of the designer’s work
The Labour Party has written to the elections watchdog to demand an investigation into the refit, which has been dubbed Wallpaper-gate
Lulu Lytle’s work his highly sought after in certain circles, pictured an example of her work
It came as Labour wrote to the elections watchdog to demand an investigation into the refit, which has been dubbed Wallpaper-gate.
Senior figures have questioned why such a powerful individual as Mr Case was getting involved in the affair.
Whitehall sources told Sky News they were concerned it could be a distraction from key priorities such as Covid and Brexit.
One member of Government said: ‘I’m astonished that Simon has got involved in this himself. It has so much potential to go wrong.’
Labour’s Cabinet Office spokesman Fleur Anderson said it was ‘strange’ the Cabinet Secretary has intervened with this when there are ‘far more pressing issues to deal with’.
The £58,000 donation was not reported to the Electoral Commission and the watchdog has yet to start a formal investigation.
But shadow minister Cat Smith told the commission that after the Mail’s latest email revelation, a full probe is necessary.
This newspaper disclosed last month that Tory funds were used to help pay for decor for the flat and Mr Johnson’s advisers planned to set up a ‘Downing St Trust’ with the publicly stated aim of ‘preserving Downing St for the nation’.
No 10 sources admitted it was partly intended to hide the fact Tory funds intended to fund campaigns were used to pay for the flat – as well as recoup the cash.
A Conservative spokesman said: ‘All reportable donations to the Conservative Party are correctly declared to the Electoral Commission…
‘Gifts and benefits received in a ministerial capacity are, and will continue to be, declared in Government transparency returns.’
The Electoral Commission said it is determining whether the sums relating to the refit ‘fall within the regime regulated by the commission’.
The Dyson texts row is the latest in a string of cronyism and lobbying questions facing the Conservative Party.
Accusations emerged saying David Cameron used his influence and contacts to lobby ministers and officials behalf of his financier boss Lex Greensill.
This included texting Chancellor Rishi Sunak in an unsuccessful effort to secure coronavirus loans.
Last month WhatsApp messages between Matt Hancock and a former neighbour who supplied the NHS with test tubes emerged.