It’s bedlam in Westminster: Prorogation! MPs switching allegiance! Brexit “do or die”! Dominic Cummings!
But amid all the chaos, we can rest assured of one thing: MPs will be plotting – about elections, about crucial votes, about coups and countercoups – and the plotting will inevitably happen via WhatsApp, British politicos’ favourite messaging app.
Here’s our cheat sheet for WhatsApping in Westminster.
💧 Leak your own messages
Ever heard of “WhatsApp Press Releases”? That’s when backbenchers who are not interesting enough to get their comments in the papers put out outlandish texts in a WhatsApp group chat, knowing that they will inevitably be passed on to journalists, and published given their “leak” status.
🗡🗡🤷 Plan coups
WhatsApp is great for machinations. Vote Leave used the platform to sic MPs on David Cameron ahead of the EU referendum. Today, most “senior ERG sources’” quoted in newspapers are briefings that emanate from the ERG’s WhatsApp group.
🔍 Keep track of who is in the group chat
Obvious, but key – and many politicians have disregarded this rule. A Select Committee, for instance, didn’t realise that their WhatsApp group chat included industry lobbyists.
😳 Don’t trust anyone
While “WhatsApp Press Releases” are common, unplanned leaks also happen. One MP who used to back Theresa May’s deal says he is very thankful for the large European Research Group chat, which does not seem to check its members’ identities.
🔥🔥🔥 Avoid insulting your colleagues
Keep snide remarks to a minimum, as they could be read by the person you’re writing about. Case in point: one former cabinet minister asked why their parliamentary private secretary (PPS) was dating a minister, whom the secretary of state then described very vulgarly – unaware that the PPS was in the same chat.
🚄🚄&🚌🚌 Don’t be too obvious
Given the ubiquitousness of prying eyes in Westminster, WhatsApp chats need to appear as inconspicuous as possible: a group of key pro-People’s Vote MPs, for instance, launched a chat named “Trains and Buses Group” in order to seem boring and fend off spies.
👀 Remember you can still be FOIed
While WhatsApp is an informal medium, it is still subject to Freedom of Information requests from the public (when it’s used for government business). That’s something two senior Westminster staffers were not aware of when contacted for this piece.
😴 Don’t say anything interesting
One prominent backbencher, asked for some advice on how MPs should conduct themselves on WhatsApp, says “Just don’t say anything interesting.”
Life is not only about plotting, scheming and strategising. Use WhatsApp in your down time, too: be like the Labour MPs who created a group chat to gossip about the reality show Love Island.
More great stories from WIRED
🍔 World-class chef rates the best vegan burgers in the UK
😡 TikTok is fuelling India’s deadly hate speech epidemic
🍫 The foods you’ll really need to stockpile for no-deal Brexit
♻️ The truth behind the UK’s biggest recycling myths
🤷🏼 How is the internet still obsessed with Myers-Briggs?
📧 Get the best tech deals and gadget news in your inbox