Treasury faces backlash over ‘tone-deaf’ Budget social media post that summarizes headline announcements in the form of ‘leaked WhatsApp files’
The Treasury faced backlash today over a “tone-deaf” social media post featuring the biggest budget announcements.
Just hours after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled his big-ticket catalog, his department shared a mocked version of a group chat captioned, “BREAKING NEWS: Spring Budget WhatsApp Files Leaked.”
All the messages were fake texts sent from other parts of Whitehall, including the Education, Transport and Work and Pensions departments.
It was an ironic reference to the massive leak of Matt Hancock’s personal messages.
The Daily Telegraph was handed a treasure trove of over 100,000 WhatsApps from when the ex-health secretary was in charge during Covid.
The post, taken from the Treasury’s official Twitter account, presents the government’s key messages for the spring budget as a WhatsApp leak, apparently referring to the massive leak of Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s personal messages.
It is not known who approved the ad, but the Treasury is headed by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who unveiled the budget in the House of Commons today
Texts are said to show Mr Hancock has rejected calls to test all residents going to UK care homes for Covid, discussing how the pandemic could ‘propel’ his career.
The catalog of revelations sparked anger among Britons, with some calling for the former health minister to be investigated by police.
But Mr Hancock’s team vehemently denies the allegations that have come in the wake of the WhatsApp leaks, saying they are one-sided and lack a huge amount of context.
The Treasury’s attempt to capitalize on the controversy to promote Mr Hunt’s budget sparked anger on social media.
A Twitter commentator, claiming to be a Labor supporter, said: “Shining a light on the sleaze of your own parties isn’t exactly conventional advertising.”
Another added: “Thank you for showing the current government has an utter disregard for basic standards in public office. You think that Hancock thing was just a little joke.”
The ad closes with a fake message from No10 featuring an animated image of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak celebrating the release of the budget.
Text accompanying the post encourages users to share the “leaked scoop” with their friends and family.
Several Twitter users described the entire ad as “cringe,” “curl toes,” “shameful,” with one asking, “Where’s your dignity?”
Twitter user George Jones added, “Who signed this? One of the most tone-deaf things I’ve seen.’
MailOnline approached The Treasury for comment.
MailOnline has not seen the full WhatsApp exchanges between Mr Hancock and other officials so cannot confirm context.
The messages were originally leaked by Isabel Oakeshott, the journalist who helped Hancock write his book Pandemic Diaries.
Mr Hancock’s spokesperson has said the WhatsApp exchanges provide a ‘full partial account’ and that ‘the right place to objectively consider everything about the pandemic is the public inquiry’.
MAIN CLAIMS OF THE LOCKDOWN FILES INVESTIGATION
A new cache of 100,000 text and WhatsApp messages leaked to the Daily Telegraph by the ex-journalist who ghost-wrote Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries claimed:
- Matt Hancock rejected the Chief Medical Officer’s call for all residents going to UK care homes to be tested for Covid
- A minister from Mr Hancock’s department said restrictions on visitors to care homes were ‘inhumane’ but residents remained isolated for months
- Mr Hancock’s adviser arranged a face-to-face test for Jacob Rees-Mogg’s child in a time of national shortage
- Mr Hancock told former Chancellor George Osborne, then editor of the Evening Standard: ‘I WANT TO HAIR MY TARGET!’ while pushing for favorable front-page coverage
- Mr Hancock is said to have met his target of 100,000 tests a day by counting kits sent before the deadline but may never be processed
- Social Care Minister Helen Whately told Mr Hancock the testing system ‘definitely worked’ after she managed to secure a test ‘only’ 50 miles from where she lived.
- Mr Osborne warned Mr Hancock that ‘no one thinks testing is going well’ at the end of 2020
- The then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, revealed he was ‘quiet crackers’ about Britain’s shortage of test kits
- Face masks were introduced in school corridors and common areas after the Prime Minister was told it would avoid a ‘quarrel’ with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
- Matt Hancock took ‘rearguard’ action to close schools after former education secretary Sir Gavin Williamson persuaded the Prime Minister to keep them open in January 2021
- Sir Gavin said teachers were looking for an ‘excuse’ not to work during the pandemic
- Ministers said there was ‘no solid reason’ to impose the ‘rule of six’ on children, but did it anyway
- Students with a false positive result on a lateral flow test had to self-isolate at home for 10 days, even if they tested negative on a PCR, to avoid ‘picking’ the policy
- The PM feared he was ‘blinking too soon’ in plunging the UK into a second Covid lockdown after being warned that dismal modeling that bounced him into the move was ‘all wrong’
- Mr Johnson was eager to ease restrictions on retail, hospitality and gatherings in June 2020 but was told he was ‘too far ahead of public opinion’
- Mr Hancock and top civil servant Simon Case joked about travelers being ‘locked down’ in quarantine hotels during the Covid lockdown
- The minister said the government must “clash hard on the police” to help deal with Covid rule breakers
- Mr Hancock’s team asked if they could ‘lock up’ Nigel Farage after he posted a video of himself in a pub when they suspected he had broken the rules
- The former health minister hoped the pandemic would ‘propel’ his career into the next competition and said he thought he ‘looked great’ in a photo in a MailOnline article
- Mr Hancock referred to Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out plan as ‘eating out to help spread the virus’ and lobbied officials not to renew the plan
- Mr Hancock clashed with the Treasury, calling Steve Barclay, now the Health Secretary, a ‘w***er’ and accusing Mr Sunak of ‘only showing to the right’ by warning of a second national lockdown
- In the hours after his affair with married assistant Gina Coladangelo went public, he said the worst thing they could be accused of was kissing “before they legalized hugs”
- Ministers tried to remove NHS England boss Lord Stevens says just after Covid was first discovered, saying it would be a ‘massive improvement’
- Mr Hancock plotted to have Sir Jeremy Farrar, now WHO’s top scientist, fired from SAGE
- Mr Hancock planned when to ‘deploy’ the news of a new Covid variant to ‘scare the pants off’ the public so they complied with lockdown rules
- The former health minister branded the government’s vaccine czar, Dame Kate Bingham, as ‘totally unreliable’ and ‘crazy’ after saying only the vulnerable should be vaccinated against Covid
- Mr Hancock wanted to be the face of the vaccine rollout, he planned to do media rounds and ‘own’ the news of the Covid jabs
- Mr. Hancock tried to hide the fact that he was taking Ms. Coladangelo to dinner with the US Secretary of Health
- Sir Chris advised ministers against enforcing the sex ban during the pandemic
- Sir Chris told ministers Covid jabs could not be speeded up during the early days of the pandemic because the virus was not deadly enough