Prime Minister’s phone number had the digital “equivalent of the capacity to walk into your office”.
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Thousands of people may have Boris Johnson’s phone number, including hostile states and criminal gangs, which poses an “increased risk” they could snoop on his communications, a former National Security Adviser warned today.
Lord Ricketts stressed that individuals with the Prime Minister’s phone number had the digital “equivalent of the capacity to walk into your office”. His warnings came amid reports that, until this year, Mr Johnson’s contact number was still listed on the bottom of a 2006 press release on the internet.
“I know that modern systems like WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted, nonetheless, I think one would be worried if a hostile state who had sophisticated capabilities had the mobile phone number itself,” he told Radio 4’s Today show.
“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.”
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case recently suggested that additional security had been put around Mr Johnson’s phone.
In other developments:
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told LBC Radio that he was not saying that there were not “serious issues... about whether or not somebody gets advantage as a result of funding a political party” which are being looked at by inquiries into who paid for the refurbishment of Mr Johnson’s Downing Street flat.
However, he also launched a stinging attack on Sir Keir Starmer, branding the Labour leader’s decision to pose with wallpaper in John Lewis as a “completely ludicrous stunt”. It followed reports that the lavish revamp of the flat was allegedly inspired by a wish to get rid of the “John Lewis furniture nightmare” left over by Theresa May.
The row was showing little sign of swaying voters ahead of the local and mayoral elections on May 6. A YouGov poll for The Times put the Tories on 44 per cent, the same as a week ago, with Labour down one point on 33.
Outgoing Lords Leader Lord Fowler told how he believes people have been buying positions of influence “over the years”, though he did not say in the past few years, and said political donations and reducing the number of members of the House of Lords are matters which need to be examined. “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 told Today.
Labour sought to pile more pressure on Mr Johnson, as senior Opposition MP Dame Margaret Hodge asked the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate his conduct over the flat revamp.
In Dame Margaret’s letter to commissioner Kathryn Stone she said it had been suggested that as much as £200,000 was spent on the redecoration, with some funds reportedly originating from the Conservative Party and at least one Tory donor.
Access to the PM has come under increased scrutiny after a number of lobbying stories emerged that were based on leaked text messages between Mr Johnson and figures such as Sir James Dyson and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins insisted that Mr Johnson was aware of his responsibilities on national security amid the reports about his phone.