LONDON—The controversy surrounding Boris Johnson’s pandemic-related WhatsApp messages shows no signs of abating, with tensions mounting and a resolution seemingly distant. In a surprising twist, a senior minister has announced that the former Prime Minister will not face constraints when it comes to disclosing information to the COVID Inquiry, despite the potential loss of public funding for legal advice if he undermines the government.

At the heart of this protracted saga is the demand for unredacted WhatsApp conversations involving Boris Johnson and other officials. However, the government staunchly opposes this demand, arguing for the right to redact specific sections of the messages before their release, particularly those deemed irrelevant. One example cited pertains to content that touches on the private life of a civil servant. Boris Johnson, in response, has pledged to provide the requested material in its entirety, raising the specter of funding withdrawal.  Johnson has been warned he will lose his taxpayer-funded legal team for the COVID inquiry, if he “undermines the government’s position” or releases evidence to it without permission. 

Robert Jenrick, the UK’s Minister of Immigration, has clarified that the former Prime Minister is free to submit any documents he deems relevant to the inquiry. “What we have said is that, as he is being represented by lawyers paid for by the taxpayer, that needs to be done appropriately, as you would expect when you are using public funds. On the broader issue, we have said we will hand over absolutely anything related to COVID and the pandemic” explained Jenrick.

The backbenches say saying that this entire controversy may be a maneuver to shield Rishi Sunak from having to disclose his own messages. The government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme, which provided restaurant discounts, has faced criticism, with some scientists attributing a subsequent surge in COVID cases to the initiative.

Allies of Boris Johnson have speculated that these messages could be leaked in an effort to oust him from office. However, the government denies these allegations and expresses hope for a swift resolution, although the chances of such a resolution appear slim.


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