Matt Hancock mocks Sunak’s ‘eat out to help out’ plan, shows message matt hancock

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Matt Hancock expressed disdain for Rishi Sunak’s flagship Treasury initiative, “Eat to Help Out”, during the Covid pandemic, according to the latest cache of leaked WhatsApp messages.

The messages suggest the then health secretary was also attempting to get the support of the then cabinet secretary, Simon Case, in challenging the stance of Sunak, who was chancellor, and others on some of the pandemic-era regulations.

The case – which is required to be politically neutral – led to complaints about “pure conservative ideology” on the part of a senior minister.

The messages, published by the Daily Telegraph, suggest Hancock had concerns about a Treasury scheme designed to support restaurants, labeling it “eating out to help ward off the virus”.

The “Eat Out to Help Out” initiative, implemented in August 2020, offered customers a 50% discount of up to £10 on food and soft drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays as businesses sought to recover from the pandemic.

Hancock wrote in a message to Case: “Just want to tell you straight up that we’ve had a lot of feedback that Eat Out to Help Out is causing problems with our intervention. [sic] regions. I have kept it away from the news but it is serious.

“So please don’t allow the economic success of the plan to drive its expansion.”

Messages were exchanged before June 2020, as the government considered easing restrictions. The messages suggest Hancock wanted cafes and restaurants to keep a register of customers’ details for NHS Test and Trace, urging that the guidance read “should” as opposed to “can”.

According to the messages, the latter phrasing was preferred by the then Business Secretary Sir Alok Sharma.

“The language on the customer log has gone from ‘should’ to ‘can’. Appreciate if you can fix this – we can’t reverse it at the last minute!” Hancock said.

Case replied: “Alok blocking ‘must’. It will need to be fixed after this meeting.”

Hancock said, “The question is why Alok is against controlling the virus, I don’t understand it. Strange way”.

“Pure conservative ideology,” Case replied.

Sunak is also mentioned in conversation with Case, who describes them as “bonkers about ‘shoulds’ right now”.

The exchange was included in more than 100,000 messages sent to the Telegraph by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who was originally given material by Hancock while they were collaborating on his memoir.

Hancock described the leaks as a “massive betrayal” designed to support an “anti-lockdown agenda”.

Oakeshott has insisted that the disclosures are in the public interest.

The MP resigned as health secretary in June 2021 after photographs emerged of him kissing his assistant Gina Coladjello in his ministerial office, in breach of coronavirus rules at the time.

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