Along with 98% of the population, I thought I probably last saw the unfortunate and scandal-plagued politician when he resigned as UK Health Secretary in June 2021 in an empty office with adviser Gina Coladangelo. The office was empty except for the building-wide video surveillance system that was monitoring. The something kissed.
Along with 99% of the population, I thought I definitely saw the last of him when he disappeared into the New South Wales jungle to take part in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here in late 2022.
But no, he emerged full of energy, having done better than anyone would have believed and significantly better than the 2019 Tory lead race. He then secured just 20 votes, even fewer than Dominic Raab, which is an achievement. This time he reached the final, finishing third behind English footballer Jill Scott and an actor no one has heard of.
It’s amazing what eating a kuhanus and a camel’s penis on camera can do for your election chances. Someone should tell the hopefuls of the SNP leadership about it. It would spice up those hustings.
But even after the jungle, Mr. Hancock wasn’t done with us. His story should have a third act. As I said, the man has staying power.
Immediately after his release from the jungle – so soon after you could think of it as a sly publicity stunt – Mr Hancock published a book, The Pandemic Diaries, which he co-authored with well-known right-wing journalist Isabel Oakeshott. The publisher’s blurb promises a “candid account” showing the “inner workings of government at a time of national crisis,” one based on “never-before-seen material, including official records, his notes at the time, and communications with all would support the key players in UK Covid-19 history.”
For that last bit of communication, read the contents of Mr Hancock’s phone, particularly his texts and WhatsApp messages.
Now that the book is out, Ms Oakeshott has helpfully turned around 100,000 of those WhatsApp messages over to the Daily Telegraph, which calls the scoop The Lockdown Files. They assembled a Lockdown Files team to sift through the millions of words that the messages contain.
The big claim so far is that just before the pandemic started, Mr Hancock rejected advice to test everyone going into care homes and not just those being transferred from hospitals, partly because it would muddy the waters like he did expressed. But also because there was a lack of testing at the time (though not so few that some could not be taken to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s home to test a family member).
It is important to note that, like Ms Oakeshott herself, the Telegraph was critical of many aspects of the lockdown. So one can take with a pinch of salt his claim that Covid has turned Britain into a “curtain-picker’s paradise” akin to “East Germans under the Stasi” or that politicians “ignored the long-term consequences of creating a temporary police state”. This particular story was spun from August 2020 news stories in which Hancock told Secretary of State Simon Case that “we need to get tough with the police” to enforce lockdown rules.
READ MORE: HANCOCK’S STOCKS ABOUT WHATSAPP LEAK ‘BETRAYAL’
My favorite revelation concerns Nigel Farage and the question – posed in a group chat by one of Mr Hancock’s aides – whether the old scoundrel could be arrested. This is after Farage posted a picture of himself enjoying a pint in a pub in Kent after apparently breaking quarantine rules while returning from a Donald Trump rally in the United States. “Does he count as a pub hooligan?” asked the helper. “Can we lock him up?”
On Friday, a gleeful Farage took to the pages of the (where else?) Telegraph to admit that he, yes, broke lockdown rules and, in his own inimitable way, poked the boot at Mr Hancock. “I certainly don’t want little nitwits like Matt Hancock telling me how to live my life or not,” he wrote after comparing said nitwit to the “absurd” Sir Joseph Porter from the comic opera HMS Pinafore.
there is more “[T]Using state leverage to attack a political opponent is the hallmark of all undemocratic regimes,” he added. “The Chinese would honestly be proud of such instincts.”
At the time of writing, we have been three days into the lockdown files revelations and there is already too much information to process. On the one hand, it feels like everyone is shooting in different directions and at different targets. Farage talks about Gilbert and Sullivan and China and God knows what else. Hancock’s Tories colleagues clear their throat at their colleague’s naivety in trusting Ms Oakeshott more than you could throw a box of dodgy PPE. Piers Morgan calls Mr Hancock “an absolute prick” for joking about his departure from his TV show. Keir Starmer uses Prime Minister’s Questions to criticize the “insulting and chilling” spectacle of politicians “writing books that portray themselves as heroes or selectively leak messages”.
But the result is that we are all talking about lockdown, which is what Ms Oakeshott intended. And who is she, the source of all this excitement? If you’re a political junkie, you’ll recognize the pro-Brexit journalist from her appearances on Question Time and the like. If not, she was born in London, raised in Scotland (she attended an exclusive all-girls school in Edinburgh, followed by King Charles’ alma mater Gordonstoun) and studied history at Bristol University. She made her name with the East Lothian Courier, among other fine Scottish papers, and has since worked for the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail. Oh, and she spent a year hosting a show on GB News, that hotbed of anarcho-socialism and eco-Marxism.
oh no sorry I confuse it with National Trust Magazine.
Understandably, some view the printing of the lockdown files as a massive breach of trust by a journalist who signed a non-disclosure agreement before beginning work on The Pandemic Diaries.
Mr Hancock certainly believes so and has called it that, adding that the leaked information “provides a partial, biased account consistent with an anti-lockdown agenda”. Regarding the nursing home claim, he has issued a statement through a spokesperson, saying: “This stolen messages was manipulated to create a false story that Matt rejected clinical advice about nursing home testing. That is simply wrong.”
Ms Oakeshott counters reasonably by citing a public interest defense. The UK’s Covid-19 inquiry begins its preliminary hearings on March 21 when it looks at decision-making in Scotland. The actual public inquiry begins on June 13th. She considers the whole thing to be “a colossal whitewash”. And so she’s made public what she believes is a “real-time record” of what happened, a record showing what decisions were made, when, and why.
Right-wing libertarians like Ms Oakeshott can point to lockdown-free Sweden, which has completed its investigation, as their poster child. Or they can ramp up their anti-lockdown arguments by punishing those who have locked loved ones out of care homes or prevented people from attending funerals of loved ones. Fair enough.
But even those who supported the lockdowns (I’m one of them) cannot ignore the aftermath of that terrible spring three years ago when the sun was shining but life as we knew it stopped – the aftermath in relation on children’s mental health, broken relationships and so on.
He didn’t mean to, but in handing the goodies to a journalist, Mr Hancock inadvertently triggered something that was long overdue: a reckoning not so much with Covid itself but with lockdown, both with the good it’s done and even with the damage it caused. If it must be so, so be it.
https://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendumnews/23362552.tawdry-start-lockdown-reckoning-overdue/?ref=rss A cheesy start, but lockdown reckoning is overdue