Covid contracts and cronyism: Matt Hancock’s texts make for tough reading

Matt Hancock, Hospital visit
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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:

I do not think the community commitment adds anything and it muddies the waters

The cat is truly out of the bag, and its not going back in anytime soon.

PPE contracts

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:

Read on...

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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:

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:


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

Hancock replied:

I know they really really do just hate work

Naturally, this went down like a lead balloon with those who sympathise with teachers:

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:

Care homes

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:

Meanwhile, another campaigner called for Boris Johnson and Hancock to be charged over the deaths of tens of thousands of elderly people:

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:


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.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/DHSC, cropped to 770 x 403, licenced under Open Government Licence.

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