Over 100,000 WhatsApp messages from Matt Hancock’s time as UK Health Secretary have been leaked by a journalist assisting him in writing his memoirs.
The leak contains thousands of conversations between Mr. Hancock and various government officials throughout the early pandemic.
It was leaked by Isabel Oakeshott, who justified her breach of an NDA as being in the public interest owing to her belief justice would not be achieved during the official inquiry. Ms. Oakeshott was previously the political editor-at-large of the Sunday Times newspaper.
Mr. Hancock served as the head of the Department of Health in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recent leaks have revealed deep divisions within the government ranks during the height of lockdown restrictions in the UK, with a former aide of Mr. Hancock describing the then-Chief Advisor to then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, as a “f****** piece of s***”. It is understood that the entirety of the messages leaked by Ms. Oakeshott were also in the possession of the official inquiry into HM Government’s response to the pandemic.
Hancock resigned from the Cabinet following the revelation he broke lockdown protocol by kissing his then-aide. Mr. Hancock has described his experience in the leaked messages, claiming he was isolated following the release of the CCTV footage and felt compelled to resign as a result.
The leak has prompted serious questions about the UK governments response to the pandemic in the early stages, with Mr. Hancock describing “fear/guilt” as a desired motivator for compliance with pandemic restrictions on social gatherings and so-called “non-essential” businesses.
Sky News reported that Mr. Hancock was forwarded a message from Stephen Brine MP, who is currently the chair of the Health Select Committee. Michael Gove, then-Levelling Up secretary, was believed to have sent the message to Mr. Hancock on behalf Mr. Brine.
Criticisms of government policies are contained in messages sent to and from Mr. Hancock, with Rishi Sunak’s “eat out to help out” being linked by Department of Health officials with a rise in infections.
The leak comes as the UK attempts to rally support for the Windsor Framework, which is thought to be a finalised Brexit deal that will allow for a return of devolution in Northern Ireland.