Daily Mail

Hancock ‘fought to make certain HE took credit for the vaccine success’

- By Inderdeep Bains Deputy Chief Reporter

MATT Hancock feared his Cabinet colleagues would take credit for the vaccine success and stop it from being seen as a ‘Hancock triumph’.

Leaked WhatsApp messages show how the former health secretary fought tooth and nail to be the face of the rollout after advisers suggested it would help the public to ‘forgive’ him for lockdowns.

In November 2020, the Department of Health learned that Pfizer was planning to announce that its vaccine provided 90 per cent protection against Covid-19.

Mr Hancock immediatel­y complained that he wasn’t live on TV and moaned that business secretary Alok Sharma was set to do the morning TV round – telling an adviser ‘It MUST NOT be Alok’, the Telegraph reported.

He later wrote: ‘Front pages on vaccine are unreal. You are totally right I must own this.’ Special

‘You are right... I must own this’

adviser Jamie Njoku- Goodwin replied: ‘Yup. Papers see it as the way out. They will forgive you for being in favour of lockdown if they think you are working night and day for a vaccine.’

The details have been unearthed in more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages dubbed the ‘Lockdown Files’ which have been leaked to the Telegraph.

The messages also revealed that Dame Kate Bingham, the Government’s vaccines tsar, was labelled ‘totally unreliable’ and ‘wacky’ by ministers.

Ministers in the Department of Health and Dame Kate were at odds after she questioned the need to vaccinate the entire country. She was given a damehood in recognitio­n of her services, which enabled the UK to become the first Western country to vaccinate its citizens.

Mr Hancock clashed with Dame Kate over an interview she gave to the Financial Times in which she said: ‘ We just need to vaccinate everyone at risk’.

Damon Poole, the health secretary’s special adviser, texted him to say ‘this is unhelpful’, along with a link to the article in question.

Mr Hancock replied: ‘If so we absolutely need No 10 to sit on her hard. She has view and a wacky way of expressing them & is totally unreliable. She regards anything that isn’t her idea as political interferen­ce.’

Mr Poole responded: ‘I had a blazing row with her when I was at No 10. I’ll speak with them, it’s not her call and it is deeply unhelpful.’

The revelation­s come as it emerged that Mr Hancock planned to ‘ deploy’ informatio­n about a new coronaviru­s variant to ‘frighten the pants off’ Britons in a bid to ensure they complied with lockdown rules.

The latest tranche of leaked WhatsApp messages suggest the former health secretary schemed with government officials to use scare tactics to force the public into submitting to Covid rules.

In one text exchange during the pandemic, Mr Hancock appeared to discuss how best to use the announceme­nt of thenew Kent variant to scarethe population.

The damning revelation­s have caused outrage among critics, who have accused the Government of weaponisin­g Covid to ‘gaslight’ and manipulate the public.

In one exchange with Mr Poole in December 2020, Mr Hancock appeared to suggest that a recently emerged strain of Covid could help to prepare for a looming lockdown ahead of Christmas.

By then, the country had come out of the second national lockdown and had entered a tiered system which meant different areas of the country were subject to varying restrictio­ns. Mr Poole informed his boss that Conservati­ve MPs were ‘furious already about the prospect’ of stricter Covid rules which was putting considerab­le pressure on the Government. He suggested that ‘rather than doing too much forward signalling, we can roll pitch with the new strain’.

Mr Hancock replied: ‘We frighten the pants off everyone with the new strain.’

To which Mr Poole said: ‘ Yep that’s what will get proper behaviour change.’

But Mr Hancock expressed concern that talks over Brexit were ‘taking the top line’ and dominating headlines at the time and questioned: ‘ When do we deploy the new variant?’

The next day [December 14, 2020], Mr Hancock publicly announced that a new variant had been identified in the UK.

Less than a week later, a surge in cases led to the effective cancellati­on of Christmas and a third national lockdown was announced on January 4, 2021.

‘Frighten the pants off everyone’

 ?? ?? TV warning: Mr Hancock in 2020
TV warning: Mr Hancock in 2020

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom