The Treasury is facing a backlash over a tweet about Jeremy Hunt’s Budget which mocked Matt Hancock’s leaked WhatsApp messages.
The chancellor poked fun at the former Tory health secretary as he revealed the details of his budget in the Commons on Wednesday.
Boasting about scrapping the cap on the pensions allowance, Mr Hunt said he had spoken to Mr Hancock “who kindly took a break from WhatsApping his colleagues to consider it”.
Meanwhile, Mr Hunt’s department posted a video clip on Twitter which joked about the recent furore over the leaked communication with government colleagues.
It included a parody version of a WhatsApp group chat between departments in which they discuss the Budget – before Rishi Sunak is seen celebrating their ideas.
The Treasury tweeted: “Breaking News: Spring Budget WhatsApp Files leaked. Share the scoop with your family and friends on WhatsApp.”
But the reference to the leaked WhatsApp from Mr Hancock’s period as health secretary during the Covid crisis was badly received.
Allison Pearson – Telegraph columnist and noted lockdown sceptic – said: “A million British children with mental health problems because our country is run by a bunch of panicky, inept, narcissistic t**** who think the Precautionary Principle means cover your own a*** first. But you go ahead and laugh.”
Defence lawyer and campaigner Aamer Anwar tweeted that it was “shameful how you as a government dept should find WhatsApp leaking so funny”.
He added: “It wouldn’t be, if you were one of the Covid Bereaved Families reading how their loved one’s lives were sacrificed to meet targets and so much more.”
Zoe Clews, founder of a therapy practice, tweeted: “For crying out loud READ THE ROOM. This isn’t funny. Peoples lives and mental health were devastated and the Whatsapp files showed the utter contempt and disregard. REASSESS.”
Others referred to the attempted humour as “cringe” and “tone deaf”, with one Twitter using saying: “You’re supposed to be the fecking civil service, not the Tory marketing department.”
Mr Hancock has lashed out at journalist Isabel Oakeshott – who leaked the MP’s Covid-era communications to The Telegraph after working with him on his book – accusing her of “massive betrayal”.
But Ms Oakeshott called Mr Hancock’s claim the messages were not in the public interest “ridiculous”, and said anyone “who thinks I did this for money must be utterly insane”.