Matt Hancock breaks silence on lockdown WhatsApp leaks
Matt Hancock has claimed he is the victim of a “massive betrayal and a breach of trust” after WhatsApp messages were leaked, revealing the inside working of government during the coronavirus crisis.
The former health secretary apologised for the impact of the release of the messages on those he had worked with during the pandemic.
Mr Hancock gave the messages to journalist Isabel Oakeshott as they collaborated on his memoirs, but she subsequently handed them to the Daily Telegraph, which has published a series of stories based on the correspondence with fellow ministers and officials.
Ms Oakeshott said she was threatened by Mr Hancock in a late-night message after the newspaper began publishing its stories.
Mr Hancock 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 Pandemic Diaries book was given to the Covid-19 public inquiry.
Explaining the message he sent to the journalist, 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.”
Ms Oakeshott said she would not get involved in a “slanging match” with Mr Hancock “because it wouldn’t be pretty”.
“He can threaten me all he likes,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
“There are plenty of things I can say about his behaviour, by the way, that I’m not going to do – at least not at this stage – because this is not about Matt Hancock. It is so much bigger than that.”
Pressed on her claim about the message he sent her, Ms Oakeshott said: “I’m saying that he sent me a message at 1.20am in the morning. It wasn’t a pleasant message.”
Explaining why she had breached a non-disclosure agreement to hand the cache of WhatsApp messages to the Telegraph, she said it was not motivated by money.
“Anyone who thinks I did this for money must be utterly insane,” she said.
“This is about the millions of people, every one of us in this country that were adversely affected by the catastrophic decisions to lock down this country repeatedly, often on the flimsiest of evidence for political reasons.”