Matt Hancock‘s WhatsApp messages have leaked. Three years on, we’re getting a fuller picture of what happened in the chaotic early days of the pandemic. That seems to have been PPE (personal protective equipment) contract cronyism, and contempt towards workers. Indeed, teachers were even branded lazy by ministers despite soldiering on through the pandemic.
The former health secretary was quick to call the leaks a “betrayal”. He had handed over his WhatsApp history to right-wing journalist Isabel Oakeshott, to write his book about the period. Hancock has given the impression there was an undertaking to not share the messages further. But Oakeshott instead appears to have handed them to the Telegraph.
One of the most damning claims is that Hancock did not take up expert advice on testing and visiting rules for care homes. This may have led to tens of thousands of resident’s deaths. Guidance suggested that everyone entering a care home at the time be tested, something which Hancock appeared to agree with. Yet ultimately he seems to have abandoned that advice, saying:
The cat is truly out of the bag, and its not going back in anytime soon.
It has long been claimed that Tories were handing close associates massive contracts for things like protective equipment and tests. Anger resurfaced on social media following the leaks:
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Matt Hancock calls the release of the WhatsApp messages as a massive betrayal.
My life and career has been destroyed because he was handing out PPE contracts to his mates for huge sums of money.
A government who treated nurses as cannon fodder is a massive betrayal#LongCovid
— Stormzy💙 (@Nurseborisbash) March 2, 2023
Indeed, despite his talk of betrayal, Hancock wasn’t inspiring much emotion aside from anger. One Twitter user made the point that Hancock wasn’t the only Tory who may have benefitted:
I don’t feel sorry for #Hancock at all. He caused the needless deaths of thousands of people while his family and friends benefited financially from lucrative government COVID contracts. But he wasn’t the only one, was he?
— Jack Ploppy 💙 (@JackPloppy) March 2, 2023
Nobody seemed to be letting Oakeshott off the hook – one person branded her a “despicable hypocrite”. But there was a recognition that Hancock was in a position of enormous power during the pandemic, and deserved criticism:
I don't understand why everyone is condemning Oakshott. Yes she's a despicable hypocrite but Hancock deserves all he gets. He was in a crucial position, and his mind was not fully on his job. He made catastrophic decisions and ripped off the tax payer with his VIP PPE contracts.
— Elizabeth Hopkins (@elizabe30042418) March 2, 2023
Ministers also attacked teachers for their conduct during the pandemic. WhatsApp conversations between Hancock and then-education secretary Gavin Williamson reveal their contempt for teachers.
In one exchange following an announcement that A levels would be delayed, Williamson told Hancock:
Cracking announcement today. What a bunch of absolute arses the teaching unions are
I know they really really do just hate work
Naturally, this went down like a lead balloon with those who sympathise with teachers:
These leaks show what the Tories really think of us teachers. The chutzpah of Gavin Williamson, an utter incompetent, telling Hancock that teachers hate work?! The Tories are scum.
— ZedsDadBaby (@ZedsDadBaby) March 1, 2023
The National Education union (NEU) blasted Williamson:
Evidence that could have curbed the impact of Covid, resulting in wider lockdowns, was ignored, and they gave consistently late information to headteachers on the latest measures being imposed by government on schools and colleges. It was nothing short of a shambles
Further, its joint general secretary Mary Bousted tweeted:
Why am I utterly unsurprised to now have it absolutely confirmed that Gavin Williamson was unfit to be Secretary of State for Education.
— Dr Mary Bousted (@MaryBoustedNEU) March 1, 2023
The leaks re-energised criticism about Hancock’s approach to care homes during the pandemic. Palliative care doctor Rachel Clark branded Hancock a charlatan for his conduct during the pandemic:
In 2020, Matt Hancock brazenly lied on camera, insisting he “threw a protective ring” around care homes.
Now leaked WhatsApps reveal this was hogwash. Hancock *rejected* Chris Whitty’s advice to Covid test everyone coming into care homes.
Utter, shameless charlatan. pic.twitter.com/dfhjiH2yyt
— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) March 1, 2023
Meanwhile, another campaigner called for Boris Johnson and Hancock to be charged over the deaths of tens of thousands of elderly people:
🔴Matt Hancock & Boris Johnson should be CHARGED
▪️Matt Hancock REJECTED CMO Officer, Chris Whitty’s advice to test all residents going into English care homes for Covid.
“Appalling DEATH toll [40,000] was entirely avoidable – it's a scandal of monumental proportions." pic.twitter.com/bR7Pyg3q83
— Britain People (@Britain_People) March 1, 2023
On top of that, activist David Challen pointed out that for all his talk about betrayal, Hancock couldn’t even begin to understand what it meant compared to the families of the pandemic dead:
Man who not only caused thousands of care homes deaths but cheated on his wife at the same time (whilst breaking Covid rules) says WhatsApp leaks are a "massive betrayal and breach of trust".
Not sure if he understands the true meaning of betrayal and breach of trust, do you? pic.twitter.com/qVyFlTKZQP
— David Challen (@David_Challen) March 2, 2023
It remains to be seen if the new leaks will lead to any serious action. A public inquiry would be a start, though actual charges would be a miracle. However, the likes of Hancock must never be let off the hook for the contempt they showed for ordinary people during the pandemic.Support us and go ad-free
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