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Humiliated Tory admits she doesn't have Boris Johnson's number but billionaire does

Mirror logo Mirror 23/04/2021 Dan Bloom

A Tory minister has been left humiliated after admitting even she doesn't have Boris Johnson's number - but a billionaire does.

Caroline Dinenage said the Prime Minister did not give his number out "willy-nilly" in an interview with ITV's Good Morning Britain.

And to prove it, she scrolled through her own phone before saying: "No, I don't have it."

But she still defended the fact tycoon Sir James Dyson was able to text the PM - leaving ITV host Kate Garraway baffled.

Culture minister Ms Dinenage said: "Of course they don't hand them out willy-nilly.

"And I'm not even sure I have got the Prime Minister's number, to be honest with you.

a person taking a selfie in a room: Caroline Dinenage scrolled through her phone to check she didn't have the PM's number © ITV Caroline Dinenage scrolled through her phone to check she didn't have the PM's number

"We are talking about someone who is one of the top British business people in the world."

Kate Garraway hit back: "Sorry! Just a second!

"You're a cabinet minister and you don't have Boris Johnon's number but a commercial operator does have his number and you think that's reasonable because he's a commercial operator?"

graphical user interface, website: She was hauled up by host Kate Garraway © ITV She was hauled up by host Kate Garraway

The minister replied "I don't think it's reasonable..." before tailing off and saying she wasn't sure if she had his number or not.

She then flicked through her phone live on air to check that she didn't have it after all.

This week it emerged Boris Johnson texted billionaire Sir James Dyson vowing to "fix" a tax rule so his staff could help build ventilators for the NHS.

Mr Johnson has insisted he would make "no apology" for saving lives by any means in a crisis - and was backed by Tony Blair, who said "I find it hard to get worked up about this."

But asked to respond to Mr Blair today, ex-PM Gordon Brown told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "I think Tony would agree it’s got to be done in the proper way.

"You can’t have people in the commercial interest begin able to lobby ministers privately and nobody really knowing what these decisions are going to be and how they’re made.

"This 90-day rule Dyson was complaining about - that you can only be in the country 90 days without paying tax and being taxed somewhere else - is so controversial.

"You’ve got loads of people who are angry and wanting something changed about that, and yet he [James Dyson] has special access."

a man in a suit standing in front of a building: Boris Johnson has reportedly refused to change his phone number © AFP via Getty Images Boris Johnson has reportedly refused to change his phone number

He added: "Many of us have real problems we want government to deal with.

"Inadequate social care, waiting for things to happen, not enough support for people out of work.

"And we don’t have a direct line to ministers like Boris Johnson. We can’t text them, we can’t phone them up on their mobile phones."

Sir James Dyson has defended his text contact which he said was vital to help the ventilator challenge.

Dyson insist it would be “utterly misleading and false to imply that any benefit or advantage was being sought”, beyond ensuring the firm and staff would not be penalised for helping the ventilator project.

The firm said James Dyson “did not initiate contact with the PM” and it was Boris Johnson who made urgent direct contact.

Dyson also insisted the communications with the Prime Minister and Chancellor were not “private” because they were also channelled openly through their staff.

Sir James insisted Dyson made a £20m loss on the programme and it was “absurd” to present his messages as “anything other than seeking compliance with rules”.

“We were in the midst of an national emergency and I am hugely proud of Dyson’s response - I would do the same again if asked," he said.

“Our ventilator cost Dyson £20m, freely given to the national cause."

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