Ministers are concerned they will no longer be able to hold open discussions about the policy if it leaks out as ammunition in the increasingly bitter race to succeed Boris Johnson
The Cabinet Office is understood to now be investigating several leaks made since the competition began three weeks ago – after an initial inquiry was launched last week into published information hurting Penny Mordaunt’s leadership bid.
Repeated leaks from Whitehall aimed at hurting Tory leadership rivals cause ‘great distrust’ within government. I has learned.
Ministers are concerned they will no longer be able to hold open discussions about the policy if it has been leaked by colleagues or officials as ammunition in the increasingly bitter race to succeed Boris Johnson.
There are also concerns that the “blue-on-blue” war among Conservative members could backfire and make the task of uniting party and government even more difficult by whoever wins the contest.
Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, last week warned officials and ministers not to release information from Whitehall to help neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak, saying the “unauthorized release of government information to the media is clearly inappropriate” and that it was the Case was “It is of the utmost importance that public funds are not used to support leadership campaigns”.
But despite this warning shot, a new leak surfaced on Wednesday evening The times Newspaper that cast doubt on Mr Sunak’s claims of being a foreign policy “hawk” towards China. The revelation revealed that he was close to signing a new economic deal with China to “deepen trade ties” with the country.
A senior Tory source said: “It’s a bit grim. Blue on blue seeps through all levels of the party. Anyone who takes on the top job will have to reorganize a lot in order to form a team.
“The constant leaks also cause a great deal of suspicion – how can you have open discussions about the government when the prospect of this treatment hangs over you?
“This competition should be a reset to our values. country before party. Party in front of yourself. To date, it hasn’t. ‘Disappointing’ is a word commonly used by party members.”
A cabinet spokesman declined to comment on leaks or leak requests.
Since the competition to find Boris Johnson’s successor began less than a month ago, there have been reports that supporters of some candidates are collecting “dirty dossiers” about rival camps.
Gavin Williamson, the former Chief Whip and a frontrunner for Mr Sunak, has been accused of using “dark arts” and “dirty tricks” against Ms Truss and other candidates, but this has been denied by the Sunak camp.
Ms. Truss and Mr. Sunak and their teams have also used direct “blue-on-blue” attacks in televised debates and at hustings to undermine their opponent’s chances.
But the prospect of leaked documents or information from Whitehall from officials either working for or connected to various campaigns has horrified senior officials.
In a letter to Conservative MP David Davis last week, Mr Case took the rare step of confirming he was investigating the disclosure of information from Whitehall that damaged Penny Mordaunt’s campaign, which was later ousted from the contest in the most recent vote MPs.
That leak claimed Penny Mordaunt supported watering down the legal transition process, but the Trade Secretary insisted she did not endorse self-identification.