Daily Mail

Hancock shared text that said Covid could propel career ‘into next league’

- By Emily Craig and Stephen Matthews

MATT Hancock shared advice on how Covid could propel his career ‘into the next league’ two days before Britain recorded its first cases, leaked messages revealed yesterday.

He forwarded a WhatsApp text from an unnamed ‘wise friend’ that said a ‘well-handled crisis of this scale could propel you into the next league and break you through in terms of public perception’.

Other messages revealed that Mr Hancock also praised his own appearance in a MailOnline story which showed him ‘covered in mud’ while carrying a rugby ball through a London park a day after then-prime minister Boris Johnson pleaded with the country to stay at home.

He told his adviser, who called the story ‘ludicrous’, and tried to play down the video footage, saying: ‘I think I look great!’

The latest messages, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, suggest the former health secretary was considerin­g how the pandemic could help his career as early as January 2020.

On January 29, he forwarded a message to his media adviser Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, which Mr Hancock said was from a ‘wise friend’.

It states that the former minister ‘has come over well so far’, describing him as ‘calm, authoritat­ive and honest’.

The unidentifi­ed sender encouraged Mr Hancock to consider how he wants his handling of the crisis to be remembered and how he will project these qualities.

In the message, Mr Hancock was encouraged to ‘show the PM you’re his ultra competent, non showboaty lieutenant’ and ‘show him you’re looking out for him, not you’.

The exchanges occurred two days before Britain logged its first cases of Covid.

Further WhatsApp exchanges show that Mr Hancock’s standing with the public continued to be on his radar. Emma Dean, one of the then- health secretary’s special

‘I think I look great’

advisers, sent him a link to a YouGov poll on December 29, which rated the most popular Conservati­ve politician­s. Mr Hancock replied: ‘ F*** that’s good’.

In a text from January 2021, media special adviser Damon Poole told Mr Hancock he had received a call from MailOnline about footage of him walking in a London park.

The footage, taken on January 16 a day after Mr Johnson urged the public to stay at home, showed Mr Hancock ‘ covered in mud’ while carrying a rugby ball.

Mr Poole said it was ‘ ludicrous’ and suggested telling MailOnline: ‘Matt was outside in line with the rules for exercise.’

Mr Hancock replied: ‘If you do need a line say “As you can see, Matt was outside for exercise”.’ He added: ‘I think I look great!’

By May 2021, he was advising his team to contact Gina Coladangel­o, the married aide he was caught having an affair with just one month later, on PR matters.

Footage published in June 2021 showed Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangel­o kissing, in breach of social distancing rules in place at the time. Mr Poole asked Mr Hancock if he had ‘ said yes to photos of you surfing’. He replied: ‘Yes. Do you think no? Can you talk to Gina and decide. I get the risks.’

Mr Hancock’s WhatsApp messages have been leaked by Isabel Oakeshott, the journalist who helped him write his book Pandemic Diaries.

 ?? ?? Advice: Matt Hancock
Advice: Matt Hancock

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom