The government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has come under the spotlight after the Daily Telegraph leaked over 100,000 private WhatsApp messages involving Matt Hancock.
The cache of messages, which reveal private conversations between a number of senior politicians and officials, provides a unique insight into how the UK government operated at the height of the pandemic.
Here are the five most important revelations in the investigation since Friday.
boris johnson was ‘Unbelievable figure’,
Simon Case, the current head of the civil service, told Hancock that the public should be told to be swayed by “trustworthy local figures, not nationally unreliable figures like the PM”.
The conversation between the then Health Secretary and Case took place on 30 October 2020, as the testing capacity was being expanded.
Hancock told Case: “I’m going to get stuck in and drive this rollout. The PM is absolutely right on this. Rep. Rep. Rep”.
Case then responded: “Agreed. My concern is that while we can figure out how to test, we can’t figure out how to isolate people. We’re losing this war because of behavior – this is something we have to change (which probably also depends on people hearing about the separation from trusted local figures, not unreliable figures at the national level like the PM, sadly).
,take off everyone’s pants,
Hancock told aides he wanted to “scare everyone” to ensure compliance with Covid-19 restrictions.
The then Health Secretary and others discussed how to use an announcement about the Alpha, or “Kent”, type of virus to scare the public into changing their behaviour.
In a WhatsApp conversation on 13 December 2020, Damon Poole, one of Hancock’s media advisers, said Tory MPs were “already furious about the prospect” of stricter COVID measures and suggested that “we could pitch in with new tensions”. can roll”.
Hancock replied: “We scare everyone with the new strain.” Poole agreed: “Yeah, that’s the one who’ll get fair treatment [sic] Change.”
A ‘Snog and heavy petting,
Messages between Hancock and the officers show him responding to photos that were published of him hugging colleague Gina Coladjello. The messages reveal that Hancock and his advisers have been talking among themselves and liaising with Number 10 about how to respond to the story.
As they waited for publication of the story, Hancock asked Poole: “How bad are the pictures?” Told it was a “snog and heavy petting”, he replied: “How the fuck did anyone photograph that?”
Poole then asked Hancock whether he had kissed Coladjello in the department, to which Hancock said yes, clarifying that it was in his “office and balcony”.
Poole told Hancock and Coladjello that the Sun had further evidence that the pair were “kissing again in the office this week… any reaction?” To which Coladjello said: “FFS” and “yes”. Hancock also said yes, and added: “It wasn’t a one-off at all.”
The messages also show Hancock and Coladjello’s reaction to the leaked video to The Sun. “OMFG,” said ColaDangelo, while Hancock replied: “Cricky. Not sure this has much news value and I can’t say it’s very enjoyable to watch.”
,Eating out to help about the virus,
The messages reflect tensions between Hancock and then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the height of the pandemic. Sunak’s plan to support restaurants forced to close during the pandemic was ridiculed by the former health secretary, who called it “eating out to help ward off the virus”.
The messages also show Hancock’s personal concerns that the plan was spreading the virus. He told Simon Case he had “kept it out of the news” that it was increasing Covid cases in some of the worst affected areas and that it was causing “serious” problems.
call to dismiss Uselessly loud‘Covid Scientist’
The messages also revealed that Hancock had asked for Jeremy Farrar, then a member of Sage, the government’s scientific advisory body, to be sacked.
Farrar, who is director of the Wellcome Trust and will take up the role of chief scientist at the World Health Organization this year, publicly questioned the government’s decision to close Public Health England in August 2020.
In a message, Hancock said: “We need a strategy to deal with Jeremy Farrar. He’s totally upfront, totally outspoken, has very little respect among serious scientists. Did he contact us before he did?” did [the BBC programme Sophy] peak [on Sunday], He needs to be either in and out of the tent, or out and commentating. It doesn’t add any value intrinsically.