Today’s daily politics briefing
Boris Johnson’s mobile number has been online for the past 15 years, it has emerged – sparking fears that its widespread availability has created a serious security risk for the UK government.
Former UK national security adviser Lord Ricketts said there was an “increased risk” of potential action by hostile states or criminal gangs if the PM’s personal number had been so easily available.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the revelation as a “serious situation”, adding: “It carries a security risk.” But Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak claimed security protocols had been followed, “as far as I’m aware”.
It comes as SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said she would not propose another referendum on Scottish independence immediately after next week’s elections, saying she wanted to get past the Covid crisis first.
Meanwhile, the deluge of sleaze claims surrounding Mr Johnson and his party does not appear to be cutting through with voters. The latest YouGov poll shows the Tories increasing its lead over Labour to 11 points.
Hancock promises social care reform ‘for years to come’
The health secretary has given social care providers his word that the Government will deliver reforms to put the sector on a “firm footing for the years to come”.
Matt Hancock told a Association of Directors of Adult Social Services conference that social care reforms are “more important than they’ve ever been”.
In a recorded video message, he said: “Caring for others, in my view, is one of the most noble vocations of all. During this pandemic, the work you’ve done has protected so many people who’ve been at greatest risk from this deadly disease.
“You have my word that we will back you throughout the rest of this pandemic, and we will make the reforms that are needed to put social care on a firm footing for the years to come.”
The Government has said it will set out its plans for long-term reform of the sector later this year.
Jane Dalton30 April 2021 12:32
PM’s number could be ‘known to thousands’
More now on the security warnings, after it emerged Boris Johnson’s mobile number has been online for well over a decade.
Peter Ricketts, who served as David Cameron’s national security adviser from 2010-12, said that the PM’s number must be known to “hundreds, if not thousands” of people.
Warning that Johnson should be taking steps to be “much more digitally secure than seems to be the case now”, Lord Ricketts said: “I think one would be worried if a hostile state who had sophisticated capabilities, had the mobile phone number itself.”
Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has more on the security fears:
Adam Forrest30 April 2021 12:03
What’s at stake in England on ‘Super Thursday’?
Voters across Britain are heading to the polls on 6 May for a great swathe of elections, with the spring contests dubbed “Super Thursday”.
Our correspondent Ashley Cowburn has taken a look at some of the key battlegrounds in England – the mayoral races – and who is on course to claim victory.
Adam Forrest30 April 2021 11:57
SNP: Check PM’s texts before he has chance to ‘dispose’ of phone
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford has urged the new Downing Street ethics adviser to urgently investigate Boris Johnson’s text correspondence on Covid contracts – before he has any chance to disposes of his mobile phone.
In a letter to Lord Geidt, Blackford said publishing such correspondence should be an urgent priority, claiming there was a risk that evidence could “go missing”.
“As an absolute priority, the UK government’s new independent advisor for the ministerial code must investigate the prime minister’s private correspondence on Covid contracts – before Boris Johnson disposes of his mobile phone.”
Adam Forrest30 April 2021 11:34
Sunak: Security protocol followed ‘as far as I’m aware’
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he believed all security protocols had been followed when asked about the revelation that Boris Johnson’s phone number has been available online for 15 years.
“As far as I’m aware all security protocols have been followed,” he said, campaigning in Hartlepool for next week’s by-election.
Sunak suggested voters weren’t interested in security or sleaze claims.
“Part of what makes the prime minister special is that he is an incredibly approachable individual. You see it wherever he is out and about, people feel they can relate to him, they can talk to him, they can tell him what’s on their mind.”
Adam Forrest30 April 2021 11:00
‘Serious situation’: Starmer speaks out on PM’s mobile number
Asked about the PM’s phone number being on the internet, Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “It’s obviously a serious situation. It carries a security risk. And he was warned about it. That tells its own story.”
Campaigning at a boxing gym in Hull, Starmer told reporters: “I think a lot of people will be concerned not just about who’s got the number but who’s been using it.
“Because what’s come out in recent weeks is privileged access – those that can WhatsApp the Prime minister for favours.”
Starmer added: “I changed my number when I became director of public prosecutions and I’ve kept my number secure since then.”
Adam Forrest30 April 2021 10:55
DUP frontrunner believes world was made in ‘4,000 BC’
Edwin Poots has emerged as the frontrunner to succeed Arlene Foster as DUP leader and Northern Ireland’s first minister. So who is he?
Poots has been vocally opposed to the post-Brexit trading arrangements, describing them as “frankly ridiculous”
A Free Presbyterian, he has also has expressed a number of striking fundamentalist religious opinions – including belief in young earth creationism.
In 2007 he told The Times’ Matthew Parris: “My view on the earth is that it’s a young Earth. My view is 4,000 BC.”
Adam Forrest30 April 2021 10:44
Blackmail risk? Labour MP points out problem with PM’s online no.
Labour has so far been quiet on the revelation that Boris Johnson’s personal mobile number has been online for more than a decade.
Labour MP Rachel Hopkins said the availability of the PM’s phone number had “obvious security and lobbying implications” – and also suggested there was a risk of “blackmail”.
The ex-national security adviser Lord Ricketts said there was a risk of snooping from hostile agents and gangs from the number being so easily available online.
“That must increase the risk that they’re able to eavesdrop on some at least of the communications that are going on, and possibly other non-state actors as well, like sophisticated criminal gangs.”
Adam Forrest30 April 2021 10:35
People have been ‘buying influence,’ says departing Lord Speaker
Political donations and reducing the number of members of the House of Lords are matters which need to be looked at, says Lord Fowler, who is stepping down as Lord Speaker today.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Political donations is one of those areas we need to look at again very carefully. There just needs to be a limit on the amount of money that people can contribute.
“There should not be any question that people can buy influence, let alone buy a position in the legislature. I think that, again, does need to have a review.”
He believes people have been buying positions of influence “over the years, no question”.
Adam Forrest30 April 2021 10:17
DUP frontrunner Edwin Poots is ‘shrewd,’ says colleague
Stormont minister Edwin Poots has put himself forward to replace Arlene Foster as the next DUP leader. Will his colleagues rally round him as the flag-bearer?
One leading DUP figure, the MLA Jim Wells, claimed Poots was the frontrunner – saying he had vast experience and “a shrewd head on his shoulders”.
Former Irish premier Bertie Ahern warned the other parties not to let the change of DUP leadership shake power-sharing arrangements. “That would be a disaster – I think instability just leaves everybody in a bad place,” he said.
Adam Forrest30 April 2021 09:51