Wrong! Matt denies sending threatening message to betrayer
MATT Hancock yesterday denied sending a ‘menacing’ late-night message to the journalist who betrayed him.
Isabel Oakeshott claimed the former health secretary had ‘threatened’ her at 1.20am after she leaked his 100,000 WhatsApp messages. And she warned him: ‘He can threaten me all he likes, but there are plenty of things I can say about his behaviour – that I’m not going to do – at least not at this stage.’
But Mr Hancock insisted he had told her only that she had made a ‘big mistake’.
He has been ridiculed for handing his messages to a journalist so vehemently opposed to Covid lockdowns. Ms Oakeshott has made little secret of using the leak to further her arguments.
Critics have also pointed out she is in a long-term relationship with Richard Tice, leader of the Reform UK party, which is expected to try to take votes off the Conservatives at the next election by standing on an anti-lockdown ticket.
As the fallout continued from what he branded a ‘massive betrayal and breach of trust’, Ms Oakeshott doubled down on her claims in media interviews.
The political journalist admitted double-crossing Mr Hancock but claimed she was acting in the public interest.
‘Absolutely no public interest’
Last year the pair collaborated on a book, the Pandemic Diaries, drawing on WhatsApp messages between him and other ministers and officials.
Yet within weeks, and despite her signing a non-disclosure agreement, she had passed the treasure trove of private messages to the Daily Telegraph.
She insisted yesterday that as ‘a working journalist’ she had a right to be paid for helping the newspaper.
She admitted she had not told Mr Hancock in advance, leaving him to find out only when her revelations were splashed across seven news pages.
In a statement yesterday morning he said: ‘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.’
He said there was ‘absolutely no public interest case for this huge breach’ because all the material used for his book has been given to the Covid public inquiry. Explaining the text he sent to the journalist – who called it ‘not a pleasant message’ – he said: ‘Last night, I was accused of sending menacing messages to Isabel. This is also wrong.
‘When I heard confused rumours of a publication late on Tuesday night, I called and messaged Isabel to ask her if she had “any clues” about it and got no response. When I then saw what she’d done, I messaged to say it was “a big mistake”. Nothing more.’
He added: ‘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.’
But Ms Oakeshott told TalkTV: ‘What a ridiculous defence. For someone who’s as intelligent as Matt Hancock to issue a statement saying there is no public interest in these revelations is patently absurd. And he knows that very well.’
And on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she vowed: ‘There’s plenty I could say [but] do you know what I’m not going to do, because it wouldn’t be pretty, is get involved in a slanging match with Matt Hancock.’
She shrugged off Mr Hancock’s claim that she had ‘stolen’ his messages, saying any journalist worth their salt would not have sat on such a treasure trove of information.