A memo that reveals UK prime minister Theresa May is furious about internal leaks was leaked immediately

“If leaders think leaks are the necessary cost of open ways of working, they are mistaken.”
“If leaders think leaks are the necessary cost of open ways of working, they are mistaken.”
Image: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth
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If Theresa May is to be believed, someone’s about to get fired.

The embattled UK prime minister is keen to eliminate leaks from within her government, and willing to take serious measures to do so, according to a Nov. 28 memo from cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to senior officials.

“Leaking is corrosive and undermines trust and good government,” Heywood wrote. “Leaks are never acceptable but the regularity and cumulative impact of recent incidents mean we must now collectively take exceptional action. The Prime Minister has directed that we urgently tighten security processes and improve our response to leaks.”

By Dec. 1, the memo—distributed in hard copy instead of by email—had been leaked to the Daily Mail.

In the memo, Heywood said leaders who think leaks “are the necessary cost of open ways…are mistaken,” and that “anyone found to have leaked sensitive information will be dismissed, even when there is no compromise of national security.” He noted that May would be informing ministers of the same.

The note outlined other crackdown measures, including requiring all ministers and officials to use government-supplied mobile phones and empowering security chiefs to seize the phones and email records of suspected leakers.

May’s edict comes as she continues to negotiate Britain’s complicated exit from the European Union. One recent directive to ministers, also leaked to the Mail, said that jokes perpetuating foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s “cabinet clown” reputation were making it impossible for him to do his job. As a solution, the memo instructed ministers to no longer refer to him as ”Boris.”