Thoughts and prayers with the Russian agents forced to monitor Boris Johnson’s mobile phone

Tom Peck
·4-min read
<p>On call: Boris Johnson checks his mobile phone in 2016</p> (AFP/Getty)

On call: Boris Johnson checks his mobile phone in 2016

(AFP/Getty)

And so we learn that Boris Johnson’s mobile number has been freely available online for 15 years. Well, we say freely available. It was, in fact, at the foot of a press release sent out while the now prime minister was shadow minister for higher education. If the Russians really are reading press releases sent out by shadow ministers for higher education then whatever classified info they get hold of, no one can deny they’ve earnt it.

The news will have come as a major shock to British intelligence services, who for decades have been suspected of recruiting junior shadow cabinet ministers and then using their press releases as a way of sending secure messages to operatives in the field, in the certain knowledge that nobody will ever read them. This may seem far-fetched but there are simply no other plausible explanations for Richard Burgon.

Thoughts and prayers, naturally, with the prime minister at this difficult time. It can’t be easy, sitting on your golden toilet, hemmed in on all sides by your golden wallpaper, watching your phone lighting up like a Catherine wheel on bonfire night as you’re added to at least 40 per cent of the nation’s WhatsApp groups just for lols, before the admins immediately realise that, actually, it’s more hassle to have to create another group without you than it is to just kick you out again.

The more earnest thoughts and prayers, however, must surely go out to all those poor foreign agents, who we now know have been forced to monitor Boris Johnson’s phone for the best part of two decades. When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, a comparatively small number of KGB agents, including Vladimir Putin, had a matter of hours to shred all the documents pertaining to an entire nation state.

But even that pales in comparison to the sheer workload of trying to keep on top of the neverending stream of kompromat landing on that thing, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 15 years.

Should the files ever be released it’s likely we will find out that monitoring the Boris Johnson phone account was undertaken in much the same way as the sweeping of the roof at the Chernobyl power plant, with shifts lasting no longer than 30 seconds for fear of exposure to the unprecedented levels of radioactivity involved.

And that’s not to mention the millisecond-wide window you’ve got to try and take down yet another unrecognised number tentatively asking “is that you dad?” before it gets shunted on to the blocked list with the others.

Still, it does explain a few of the prime minister’s more erratic behaviours. Some of us used to think, for example, that, when giving a briefing to a frightened nation about what’s going on with a deadly pandemic, and he still couldn’t prevent himself from using words like “sedulously”, it was simply because that’s the kind of thing that over-expensively educated, self-regarding narcissists do.

We now know his thesaurus-based intelligence cloak is in fact a piece of public school encryption coding software, through which he can book in for a technology lesson whenever he so chooses, without letting the KGB in on it.

Of course, we are already being told that the fact that Boris Johnson’s number has been freely available on the internet for 15 years means it is no longer in any way improper that he declined to change his number when he became prime minister, meaning that any special interests who got hold of his number a decade ago were now free to lobby him entirely outside the official channels, which they appear to have been doing.

Now, apparently, a nurse really could have texted him asking for a payrise (a nurse, that is, with a very keen interest in shadow education policy circa 2006), so if James Dyson wants to get some favourable tax arrangements sorted out for some ventilators he isn’t going to manufacture then that’s fine.

Naturally, the revelations will have terrified the government’s tech people, and extensive operations are almost certainly underway already to try and piece together who will have known what and by when. But they needn’t really bother.

At time of writing, a mere five of the prime minister’s extramarital affairs are a matter of public record. There can surely be no more certain proof that most of his secrets remain safe.

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