Whistleblowers have accused the Cabinet Office of “handing out” their identities to the subject of a bullying complaint, heaping fresh pressure on the UK’s cabinet secretary Simon Case.
Dan Rosenfield, Boris Johnson’s former chief of staff who is now in line for a peerage, was the subject of a series of complaints alleging that he had “presided over a bullying culture, one in which junior officials were treated very badly”, particularly women.
In one instance, previously reported by The Times, Rosenfield summoned a young female member of staff to his office and yelled at her, “When I want my sandwich, I want my f***ing sandwich.”
Senior women were “removed from meetings with the PM and it took some months to get a woman back in the room”, multiple sources told Tortoise.
Complainants were interviewed by the Propriety and Ethics Team, which sits within the Cabinet Office and vets candidates for the independent Lords Appointments Commission. Although there was some optimism that the claims were being taken seriously, sources say no further action was taken.
However, some weeks later, they discovered that Rosenfield had been made aware of their identities.
There had been “calls between the Cabinet Office and Dan Rosenfield” over the course of a weekend. The people on those calls were Case, the cabinet secretary, and Darren Tierney, head of the Propriety and Ethics Team, sources said.
One told Tortoise: “The complaint was very tightly controlled – it was meant to be in total confidence, and it hadn’t even been escalated to a formal complaint, so very few people had access to that information… They handed out my name, and they can deny it as much as they like, but how the hell did Dan find out otherwise?”
They added: “What I know is that Dan had four names, one of which was mine.”
One of the complainants told Tortoise they had since referred the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office, more usually called the ICO, “because there is a risk of harm to the individual”.
Another source said: “The identities of whistleblowers were given to the man whose behaviour they are complaining about, by people who are meant to be guardians of the whole process.”
Rosenfield’s inclusion on Johnson’s honours list was “very regrettable”, the source added.
“These moments just chip away at the lack of trust that we already have in our politics…. it’s just a distortion of how things should work and a reward for people who haven’t done anything in the national interest.”
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “There is no evidence to suggest that the government has acted improperly in handling this issue.” The spokesperson could not explain how the names had been passed on.
Rosenfield did not respond to questions about how he learned the individuals’ identities, but a friend told Tortoise the bullying allegations were “completely untrue”.
The ICO did not respond to requests for comment.
Case, who has been Cabinet Secretary since 2020, has been at the centre of repeated political storms including partygate, loangate and wallpapergate. He has also been criticised for failing to stand up for the civil service amid ongoing attacks from ministers and backbench Tory MPs.
The Cabinet Office spokesperson said Case “was never made aware of the names of the complainants in this case”.
However, one of the whistleblowers claims they discussed the data breach with the Cabinet Secretary, who had only said he was “unaware” of certain details relating to the case.
Listen to next week’s Slow Newscast to hear more on this story and others relating to Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list.
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