Matt Hancock wanted to 'frighten pants off public' by deploying new covid variant
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Leaked WhatsApp messages have revealed that former Health Minister Matt Hancock wanted to ‘frighten the pants off everyone’ to ensure they stuck to Covid-19 regulations.
Among them is a conversation about when would be the best to ‘deploy’ the news of a new variant between Hancock and his aides.
Hancock’s advisor said: "Rather than doing too much forward signalling, we can roll pitch with the new strain."
To which he replied: "We frighten the pants of everyone with the new strain.”
The advisor responded: "Yep that's what will get proper behaviour change."
With Hancock then asking: “When do we deploy the new variant?”
The conversation took place on 13 December 2020, amid concerns about the rapid spread of the virus in south-east England.
Hancock announced that a new Covid-19 variant had been identified in the UK on 14 December.
Less than a week later, on 19 December, London and the south-east of England were placed in a new Tier 4 alert level.
England went into its third national lockdown on 6 January 2021.
These revelations are the latest in a series following publication of the leaked messages.
Hancock has said it was a ‘massive betrayal’ by Oakeshott.
He said in a curious statement: “I am hugely disappointed and sad at the massive betrayal and breach of trust by Isabel Oakeshott. I am also sorry for the impact on the very many people – political colleagues, civil servants and friends – who worked hard with me to get through the pandemic and save lives.
“There is absolutely no public interest case for this huge breach. All the materials for the book have already been made available to the Inquiry, which is the right, and only, place for everything to be considered properly and the right lessons to be learned. As we have seen, releasing them in this way gives a partial, biased account to suit an anti-lockdown agenda.
“Isabel and I had worked closely together for more than a year on my book, based on legal confidentiality and a process approved by the Cabinet Office. Isabel repeatedly reiterated the importance of trust throughout, and then broke that trust.”
Somehow, we feel like sympathy for Hancock will be in short supply.
Oakeshott has defended the decision, saying leaking the messages was ‘in the public interest’.
She said: “It is not my job to protect reputations of politicians, it is my job to expose what they do.”