UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s mobile number has been freely available on the internet for 15 years, it has been revealed. The number was listed at the bottom of a press release sent out when Johnson was a shadow minister and opposition MP, and has remained online ever since.
VICE World News called the number several times but it rang off without being answered, and sent WhatsApp messages to the number. However, the number now seems to have been disconnected, and WhatsApp messages are no longer being delivered.
The news comes amid criticism that during the coronavirus pandemic, British government figures including Johnson have been easily accessible to rich business lobbyists without following the rules on disclosure.
On Thursday, popular gossip newsletter Popbitch published an article which substituted some letters for numerals included in the Prime Minister’s number.
“0ver the last few weeks, Boris Johnson has taken a lot of flak for refusing to change his personal mobile number. Critics say it's highly irresponsible that any 7om, Dick or Harry could just freely add the PM on WhatsApp and strike up a chat,” the newsletter wrote, before hinting that an old press release with Johnson’s current number existed online.
VICE World News has been able to confirm that the number was indeed floating about out there on the internet, tacked on the bottom of an old press release, after a two-second Google search. Sources confirmed the number was Johnson’s.
The news comes following a series of “sleaze” scandals about how rich lobbyists have had access to government figures during the pandemic. Billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson denied that he had tried to “extract favours” from the Prime Minister in exchange for help in developing ventilators to help with coronavirus patients.
Singapore-based Dyson and Johnson had conversations over text message in March in which the Prime Minister gave assurances that Dyson’s oversees staff would not have to pay additional taxes if they came to the UK to work on a ventilator project. Messages show the Johnson said he would “fix” the issue for Dyson.
Writing in the Telegraph on Wednesday, Dyson said that the media representation of him as “a prominent Conservative donor, or supporter, leveraging a position of power to extract favours from the Prime Minister, is completely untrue.”
Johnson has also said that there was nothing wrong with the messages. "Let me tell you, if you think that there's anything remotely dodgy, or rum, or weird or sleazy about trying to secure more ventilators at a time of a national pandemic and doing everything in your power to do that then I think you're out of your mind," he said.
Contacted via phone, a Downing Street spokesperson declined to comment.