Treasury faces backlash over 'tone-deaf' Budget social media post

Treasury faces backlash over ‘tone-deaf’ Budget social media post that sums up headline announcements in form of ‘leaked WhatsApp Files’

  • READ MORE: How does the Budget affect YOU? Use MailOnline’s interactive tool
  • READ MORE: Jeremy Hunt Budget 2023 LIVE: Key points and reaction 

The Treasury today faced backlash over a ‘tone-deaf’ social media post showcasing the biggest Budget announcements. 

Just hours after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled his catalogue of big-ticket moves, his department shared a mocked-up version of a group chat captioned: ‘BREAKING NEWS: Spring Budget WhatsApp Files leaked’. 

All of the messages were fake texts sent from other parts of Whitehall, including the departments for Education, Transport and Work and Pensions. 

It was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the bombshell leak of Matt Hancock’s personal messages. 

The Daily Telegraph was handed a trove of more than 100,000 WhatsApps from the ex-Health Secretary’s time in charge during Covid. 

The post, made from the official Treasury Twitter account, presents the Government’s Spring Budget key messages as a WhatsApp leak in apparent reference to thee bombshell leak of fort Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s personal messages

It is not known who approved the ad, but the Treasury is led by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt who unveiled the budget in the Commons today

Texts allegedly show that Mr Hancock rejected calls to test all residents going into English care homes for Covid, and discussed how the pandemic could ‘propel’ his career. 

The catalogue of revelations sparked fury among Brits, with some calling for the former Health Secretary to investigated by police.  

But Mr Hancock’s team vehemently deny accusations that have come in the wake of the WhatsApp leaks, saying they are one-sided and are missing a huge amount of context.  

The Treasury’s attempt to capitalize on the controversy to promote Mr Hunt’s budget prompted fury on social media. 

One Twitter commentator, who claims to be a Labour supporter, said: ‘Shining a light on your own parties sleaze isn’t exactly a conventional way of advertising.’

Another added: ‘Thank you for demonstrating that the current government is utterly contemptuous of basic standards in public office. You think the Hancock stuff was just a wee joke.’

The ad concludes with a fake message from No10 featuring 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. 

Multiple Twitter uses described the whole ad as ‘cringe’, ‘toe-curling’, ’embarrassing’ with one asking: ‘Where is your dignity?’

Twitter user George Jones added: ‘Who signed this off? 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 the context. 

The messages were originally leaked by Isabel Oakeshott, the journalist who helped Mr Hancock write his book Pandemic Diaries.

Mr Hancock’s spokesman has said the WhatsApp exchanges present an ‘entirely partial account’ and that ‘the right place to consider everything about the pandemic objectively is in the public inquiry’.


A fresh 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 to test all residents going into English care homes for Covid
  • A minister in Mr Hancock’s department said restrictions on visitors to care homes were ‘inhumane’, but residents remained isolated many months on
  • Mr Hancock’s adviser arranged for a personal test to be couriered for Jacob Rees-Mogg’s child at a time of national shortage
  • Mr Hancock told former chancellor George Osborne, then editor of the Evening Standard, ‘I WANT TO HIT MY TARGET!’ as he pushed for favourable front-page coverage
  • Mr Hancock allegedly met his 100,000-tests-a-day target by counting kits that were despatched before the deadline but might never be processed 
  • Social care minister Helen Whately told Mr Hancock the testing system was ‘definitely working’ after she managed to secure a test ‘just’ 50 miles from where she lived. 
  • Mr Osborne warned Mr Hancock that ‘no one thinks testing is going well’ in late 2020 
  • The then prime minister, Boris Johnson, revealed he was going ‘quietly crackers’ about the UK’s shortage of test kits
  • Face masks were introduced in school hallways and communal areas after the PM was told it would avoid an ‘argument’ with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon 
  • Matt Hancock took ‘rearguard’ action to close schools after former education secretary Sir Gavin Williamson persuaded the PM 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 robust rationale’ for imposing the ‘rule of six’ on children, but did it anyway
  • Pupils with false positive results on a lateral flow test had to isolate at home for ten days, even when they tested negative on a PCR, to avoid ‘unpicking’ the policy
  • The PM feared that he ‘blinked too soon’ in plunging the UK into a second Covid lockdown after being warned that gloomy modelling which bounced him into the move was ‘very wrong’
  • Mr Johnson was eager to ease curbs 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 travellers ‘locked up’ in quarantine hotels during Covid lockdown
  • The minister said the Government should ‘get heavy with the police’ to help crack down on Covid lockdown rulebreakers
  • 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 was in breach of rules
  • The former Health Secretary hoped the pandemic would ‘propel’ his career ‘into the next league’ and said he thought he ‘looked great’ in a picture in a MailOnline article 
  • Mr Hancock referred to Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme as ‘eat out to help the virus get about’ and lobbied officials not to extend the scheme
  • Mr Hancock clashed with the Treasury, calling Steve Barclay, now the Health Secretary, a ‘w***er’ and accused Mr Sunak of ‘showing ankle to the hard right’ by warning of a second national lockdown 
  • In the hours after his affair with married aide Gina Coladangelo became public, he said the worst they could be accused of was kissing ‘before they legalised hugs’
  • Ministers sought to remove NHS England boss Lord Stevens just says after Covid was first detected, saying it would be a ‘massive improvement’
  • Mr Hancock plotted to have ‘worse than useless’ and ‘complete loudmouth’ Sir Jeremy Farrar, who is now the WHO’s top scientist, sacked from SAGE
  • Mr Hancock planned when to ‘deploy’ the news of a new Covid variant to ‘frighten the pants off’ the public so they complied with lockdown rules
  • The former Health Secretary branded the Government’s vaccine tsar Dame Kate Bingham ‘totally unreliable’ and ‘wacky’ after she said only the vulnerable needed to be vaccinated against Covid
  • Mr Hancock wanted to be the face of the vaccine rollout, planning to do media rounds and ‘own’ the news of the Covid jabs 
  • Mr Hancock attempted to hide that he’d take Ms Coladangelo to a dinner with the US health secretary
  • Sir Chris advised ministers not to enforce the sex ban during the pandemic
  • Sir Chris told ministers Covid jabs couldn’t be fast-tracked during the early days of the pandemic because the virus wasn’t deadly enough

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