Sorting by


No 10 advisers said culture in Rishi Sunak’s Treasury was ‘f***ed’

Rishi Sunak’s role during the Covid pandemic came under scrutiny on Monday after a key No 10 adviser branded the culture within the Treasury under the Prime Minister as “f***ed”.

The latest evidence session in the ongoing Covid inquiry shone the spotlight on Mr Sunak’s part during the crisis, with two senior advisers also agreeing with an article at the time headlined: “Is Rishi Sunak the most dangerous man in government”.

A WhatsApp exchange in February 2021 between Ben Warner, a former Downing Street special adviser, and Tom Shinner, another Whitehall official working on the pandemic, revealed the pair to be deeply critical of the Treasury.

During the conversation, Mr Shinner shared an article in The Guardian that claimed Mr Sunak was “the most powerful voice in government pushing for returns to ‘normal’ before time, with disastrous consequences”.

He followed it up with a comment that read: “Depressingly, I think there’s a lot of truth in this about Treasury approach.”

In his response, Mr Warner replied: “I am waging my own small war against HMT – their culture is f***ed.”

The comments were made amid growing misgivings within No 10 at the time over the impact of Mr Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which scientists and advisers believed may have exacerbated the spread of Covid in the previous August.

According to a note from then-chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance’s diary in January 2021, Boris Johnson referred to the Treasury under Mr Sunak as the “pro-death squad” as a result of the Whitehall department’s desire to loosen Covid restrictions.

It comes after it was revealed that Dame Angela McLean, who was the deputy chief scientific adviser at the time, had referred to Mr Sunak as “Dr Death” in messages with colleagues as a result of the discount restaurant scheme and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty described the offer “eat out to help out the virus”.

Dame Angela was also highly critical of the Treasury’s failure to use simple modelling, with an email chain showing the scientist refusing to endorse any infectious disease modelling produced by the department.

“Given their inability to spot egregious errors in other things they were sent I do not have confidence in their ability to hack and simple, sensible mode,” she said.

In a further concern for Mr Sunak, his former economic adviser Clare Lombardelli said she did not know whether the risk of potentially increasing infections was considered in the rollout of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme.

“I don’t know. The policy was conceived in the context that it was safe to lift restrictions and activity could return,” she told the inquiry.

She said she was not aware of feedback that the scheme could be causing problems and was not “responsible for the policy side of the scheme”.

But she rejected suggestions there was “optimism bias” in the Treasury during the pandemic, saying if anything the department is “normally accused of the opposite”.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button