UK Politics

Six Downing Street photo slips

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Media captionPoliticians and officials unintentionally sharing secret documents with the public

An adviser has been photographed in Downing Street holding a note saying the UK can have its "cake and eat it" in Brexit negotiations. Several ministers and other visitors Number 10 have been similarly caught out.

House prices

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In May 2008, homeowners were worried, as were most people, as it became clearer that the world was entering a full-blown financial crisis.

So it was less than reassuring when housing minister Caroline Flint inadvertently revealed a note prepared for her by officials, proclaiming: "We can't know how bad it will get." It also said prices would fall "at best" by between 5% and 10% during the coming year.

And, in the year to May 2009, they actually slumped by 14.3%, according to the Office for National Statistics.

"These things happen," Ms Flint said when asked about her Downing Street faux pas.

Anti-terror operation

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Bob Quick, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, walked in to Number 10 in April 2009 carrying a top-secret document containing the details of an anti-al-Qaeda operation in north-west England.

The counter-terror move, in which 12 men were arrested, had to be brought forward, for fear of it being jeopardised.

Mr Quick resigned.


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In October 2010, during the early days of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander was snapped in his ministerial car holding a draft copy of the government's spending review.

It suggested 500,000 public-sector jobs could go and that strikes could result.


International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell was photographed walking out of Number 10 holding a document stating that some countries' decision to suspend aid to Afghanistan could "destabilise" work going on in the country.

Davos refugee meeting

A civil servant was snapped in January this year holding a document about a meeting on Syrian refugees to be held at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It referred to possible economic activities for those living in Jordan.

Grammar schools

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In September, a photographer caught a view of a document referring to Conservative plans to "open new grammars" in England.

However, this would involve following "various conditions", it said, adding that it might be difficult to get such proposals through the House of Lords, where the party does not have a majority.

The government was forced to set out its plans in Parliament, in answer to an urgent question the next day.

'Have cake and eat it' Brexit notes played down by government

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