Rumours swirl over Cabinet Secretary Simon Case’s future with claims of ‘much worse’ Covid WhatsApp messages to come – and Rishi Sunak dodges saying whether top Whitehall official will stay on
- Cabinet Secretary Simon Case facing increased speculation over his future
- It’s claimed other ‘extraordinary’ WhatsApps he sent are yet to be published
Simon Case, Whitehall’s top official, is facing increased speculation over his future amid claims other ‘extraordinary’ messages he sent during Covid are yet to be published.
The Cabinet Secretary, who is also head of the civil service, has already come under pressure over his WhatsApp messages from the pandemic.
These revealed he made disparaging comments about ministers – including Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson – and mocked returning holidaymakers forced to quarantine in hotels.
This has led to calls for Mr Case – who had already been criticised over his handling of the Partygate scandal and the Nadhim Zahawi tax row – to resign.
Mr Sunak last night dodged giving a guarantee that Mr Case would still be in post by the next general election, although the Prime Minister said he looked forward to working with the Cabinet Secretary ‘for a very long time to come’.
Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, is facing calls to resign after WhatsApp messages showed how he appeared to criticise both Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson during the Covid pandemic
The top Whitehall official described it as ‘hilarious’ that holidaymakers were going into hotel quarantine on their return to Britain in early 2021
Rishi Sunak last night dodged giving a guarantee that Mr Case would still be in post by the next general election
Reports this week claimed Mr Case is ‘genuinely undecided’ about whether to quit this year to allow his successor a chance to bed in before the next general election.
But the 44-year-old has now been warned he will have no choice to resign as it is likely other WhatsApp messages – said to be ‘impossible to defend’ – will emerge during the Covid inquiry.
A Government source told The Times: ‘He was the most indiscreet man in Government. You should see the stuff he put in WhatsApps, some of it’s extraordinary. There will undoubtedly be more to come.
‘It’s hard to believe that during the inquiry there won’t be other messages that come to light. There are messages that have been sent that will be impossible to defend. He’ll have to go.’
Mr Case, a former aide to Prince William, has wielded huge power across Whitehall since being appointed Cabinet Secretary by Mr Johnson in September 2020.
He is facing fresh controversy following the leak of former health secretary Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages by political commentator Isabel Oakeshott.
She provided more than 100,000 messages to the Daily Telegraph, which were given to her when she co-authored Mr Hancock’s memoir from the pandemic.
The exchanges released by the newspaper showed how Mr Case referred to Mr Johnson, the then PM, as a ‘nationally distrusted figure’ in October 2020.
In a conversation with Mr Hancock around Covid testing capability, the Cabinet Secretary wrote: ‘My concern is that we can figure out how to test, what we don’t know how to do is get people to isolate.
‘We are losing this war because of behaviour – this is the thing we have to turn around (which probably also relies on people hearing about isolation from trusted local figures, not nationally distrusted figures like the PM, sadly).’
Previously published messages have shown how Mr Hancock and Mr Case appeared to share frustrations over Mr Sunak’s stance on Covid restrictions.
One exchange, from June 2020, came as the Government considered how to relax restrictions.
The messages showed Mr Hancock wanted cafes and restaurants to keep a register of customers’ details for NHS Test and Trace, urging that guidance would read ‘should’ as opposed to ‘can’.
Mr Case wrote: ‘Rishi going bonkers about “should” right now too.’
The exchange also revealed how Mr Hancock questioned Sir Alok Sharma’s ‘strange approach’ to the issue, with Mr Case suggesting it was ‘pure Conservative ideology’ on the part of the then business secretary.
In February 2021, Mr Hancock boasted of how the hotel quarantine policy for returning holidaymakers had seen ‘big families’ put in ‘all the suites’ and ‘pop stars in the box rooms’.
Mr Case replied: ‘I just want to see some of the faces of people coming out of first class and into a Premier Inn shoe box.
‘Any idea how many people we locked up in hotels yesterday?’
Mr Hancock responded: ‘None. But 149 chose to enter the country and are now in Quarantine Hotels due to their own free will!’
To which Mr Case added: ‘Hilarious.’
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