Officials are ’90 per cent sure’ one of Michael Gove’s team tipped off newspapers on new lockdown


Is the net closing in on the ‘Chatty Rat’ behind the Covid-19 leak? Officials are ’90 per cent sure’ one of Michael Gove’s team tipped off newspapers that Boris Johnson was going to order a new lockdown, claims senior source

  • Government source said inquiry officials 90% sure leak was from Gove’s team 
  • Comes after Gove and Hancock both had phones take away due to investigation
  • Speaker of House Sir Lindsay Hoyle said if leaker was identified as coming from No 10, this would create difficulties for Mr Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson

Advisers working for Michael Gove are at the centre of the investigation into the ‘Chatty Rat’ whose Cabinet leak forced the Prime Minister to make an early announcement of the new lockdown.

A senior Government source has claimed to The Mail on Sunday that officials on the leak inquiry were ‘90 per cent sure’ one of Mr Gove’s team tipped off newspapers that Boris was going to order a new lockdown – before he had made the final decision to do so.

It led to a scramble to arrange a special Saturday press conference to make the announcement, which was backed by Mr Gove as a pro-lockdown ‘dove’.

A senior Government source has claimed to The Mail on Sunday that officials on the leak inquiry were ‘90 per cent sure’ one of Mr Gove’s (pictured) team tipped off newspapers that Boris was going to order a new lockdown

However, last night a Cabinet Office source denied ‘any one person’ has been ‘singled out’ and cautioned that ‘concrete conclusions might prove to be elusive’.

The source – who said the investigation was expected to finish within a fortnight – also denied claims that technical experts had decided the Gove adviser had deleted call and message records from the Friday evening in question, October 30.

Last week, this newspaper revealed that senior Ministers, including Mr Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, were ordered to surrender their phones as No 10 hunted for the mole.

Both Ministers were quizzed forensically – and both deny any wrongdoing. Mr Hancock complained to No 10 that he had been unfairly blamed for the leak.

Senior Ministers, including Mr Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured), were ordered to surrender their phones as No 10 hunted for the mole

Senior Ministers, including Mr Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured), were ordered to surrender their phones as No 10 hunted for the mole

In comments that reflect the divisions that have rocked the heart of Government over the past few weeks, an ally of Mr Hancock said: ‘No one has done more to bend over backwards and ingratiate themselves with the Vote Leave guys than Matt, and they still hate him.’

Tory MPs said that the name of the ‘chatty rat’, as they have been dubbed, will never be revealed, if rumours are true that the leak came from Downing Street. 

One MP said this was linked to the fact that Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said on the floor of the House that he had had assurances from Ministers that No 10 was not responsible.

Before his resignation as director of communications last week, Lee Cain was forced to deny claims from MPs that he was the leak, telling friends he had been ruled out as a suspect by Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, who is in charge of the inquiry.

One MP said this was linked to the fact that Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (pictured) said on the floor of the House that he had had assurances from Ministers that No 10 was not responsible

One MP said this was linked to the fact that Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (pictured) said on the floor of the House that he had had assurances from Ministers that No 10 was not responsible

Sir Lindsay told MPs after the news of the national lockdown emerged: ‘After speaking with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House [Jacob Rees-Mogg], who went to great lengths to assure me that the leaks were not from Downing Street, I expect the Prime Minister to keep the House updated on his leak inquiry.’

The MP said that, if the leaker was subsequently identified as coming from No 10, this would create difficulties for Mr Rees-Mogg and the Prime Minister.

A Cabinet Minister added: ‘No one wanted to confirm it because it almost causes a bigger problem if you know about it than if you don’t.’

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘We can confirm a leak investigation is ongoing. As usual it would not be appropriate to comment further.’

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