On 28 February 2013, The Telegraph started publishing articles under the umbrella title “The Lockdown Files” because that’s just the trendy thing to do after “The Twitter Files”.
Journalist and author Isabel Oakeshott co-authored/ghostwrote then UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s book Pandemic Diaries. She had access to over 100,000 WhatsApp messages, reportedly containing about 2.3 million words.
Obviously, much had to be left out of the book, not necessarily because Hancock wanted to cover up his actions but because of space constraints and at the Cabinet Office’s requests. According to Oakeshott:
To his credit, Hancock pushed back hard. Following tortuous negotiations, we were able to save quite a lot, but on certain matters we were forced to give way. One way or another, a great deal of material that is overwhelmingly in the public interest and pertinent to the public inquiry was suppressed.
Despite having signed a non-disclosure agreement, Oakeshott gave/leaked the material to The Telegraph because she thought the circumstances demand answers and to avoid a “colossal whitewash” by the inquiry. She subsequently received a “threatening message” from Hancock which he denies was a threat.
As of writing this post, The Telegraph has published about 80 articles in total, the latest on 10 March 2023. Most are short. However, there is a lot of repetition. Some of the revelations are materially inconsequential, simply showing just how stupid some officials and ministers are by taking a limited view like considering merely two stupid options. In those instances, the outcome would just have been bad or pointless either way.
In any case, many articles indicate the lack of reasoning ability of some individuals. As for Hancock, he also has the tendency of wanting to look good, being petty with those he disagrees with, and seemed to be pleased about police confronting people to enforce restrictions.
To be fair, only a very small sample of the WhatsApp messages are released, and even then is not the entire record of discussions and decisions made.
As with Twitter, although one can infer a lot from people’s actions, to see even just a few exhibits related to said actions is significant in itself. But, quantitatively, it’s not as if there is that much—for about 80 articles, there should be a lot more substance, particularly about the so-called vaccine.
A small number of articles are merely opinions, although the occasional one is interesting if, for example, it is by Oakeshott or some medical professional or columnist Allison Pearson raising the question of whether Hancock should be prosecuted for “crime against humanity”.
Below are some key points presented in roughly chronological order.
● February 2020: In a discussion between Chief Adviser to PM Dominic Cummings, Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance and CMO Chris Whitty, Whitty warned, “For a disease with a low (for the sake of argument 1%) mortality a vaccine has to be very safe so the safety studies can’t be shortcut.”
● April 2020: Matt Hancock wanted to test 100,000 people per day. Not sure what the logic is but at the suggestion that tests should be widened to include care homes, he responded that “[t]his ok so long as it does not get in the way of actually fulfilling the capacity in testing”. Later in April, test numbers were inflated by including 26,000 tests that have left the depot to look like fulfilling his self-imposed target.
● April 2020: Hancock and Cummings discussed getting political strategist Isaac Levido to help the government’s message regarding lockdowns.
● April 2020: Officials were aware of the toll on children even during the first lockdown, not that it significantly changed anything.
● June and late 2020: Then PM Boris Johnson considered ending lockdowns early but reconsidered.
● July 2020: Hancock discussed going after Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party from 2019 to 2021, for supposedly breaking the rules by going to the pub after returning from the US having attended a Trump rally.
● August 2020: Then PM Johnson wanted to give people a choice regarding isolation. Both CMO Chris Witty and Chief Scientific Advisor Patrick Vallance raised concerns regarding isolation.
● August 2020: Some ministers were more worried about being seen as “racist” if they selectively applied restrictions in certain areas but not others due to higher infection rates in areas of minorities.
● August 2020: Masks were introduced/remained in place for secondary school students in corridors and communal areas because there was “[n]o strong reason against in corridors” according to Witty.
● August 2020: In regards to lockdown enforcement, Hancock stated “I think we are going to have to get heavy with the police”.
● Rishi Sunak, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, promoted the “Eat Out to Help Out” (taxpayer-funded package) that offered discounted meals. Hancock did not like the idea as it supposedly drove up case numbers.
● September 2020: Health Minister Nadine Dorries raised concerns that suicides were not accurately recorded.
● September 2020: During a testing shortage, a test was sent to MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s home by courier after the lab had lost one of his children’s test.
● October 2020: Social Care Minister Helen Whately “wished” to relax isolation rules for children. Despite knowing there was no reason for including children in the limit for gatherings, they were anyway.
● October and November 2020: Hancock offered to take patients from France into regions of the UK where cases were relatively lower.
● November 2020: Hancock and Witty discussed whether the 14-day self-isolation and daily testing can be reduced to 10 days, 7 days or 5 days but Hancock was reluctant because it would “imply we’d been getting it wrong”.
● November 2020: Hancock and Special Advisor Allan Nixon discussed using MPs’ desire for funding—in this case, for learning disability—to get their votes for lockdown. A spreadsheet was created and lockdown-resistant MPs were color-coded.
● December 2020: Some ministers seem to be outraged and possibly panicked after finding out about a new variant that scientists had known about months prior. This led to then PM Johnson “cancelling Christmas”.
● December 2020: Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson pushed for schools to remain open whereas Hancock and others insisted on closing them.
● December 2020: Hancock in a discussion with Department of Health Media Special Adviser Damon Poole regarding lockdown stated “We frighten the pants of everyone with the new strain”.
● December 2020 and January 2021: Hancock seemed to love the idea of taking credit for the vaccines having earlier disagreed with Chair of the Vaccine Taskforce Kate Bingham’s view not to have the entire population vaccinated. Amongst other things, he stated, “everyone knows I’m Mr vaccine & this is the route out”.
● January 2021: Hancock is “worried” and wanted an “exit strategy” regarding the use of consultants at “£1m a day” for their test and trace.
● January 2021: Hancock and Poole dismissively joked about conspiracy theories regarding Bill Gates and vaccines.
● February 2021: Former Health Minister Steve Brine contacted the Department of Health offering the services of his employer Remedium in breach of lobbying rules.
● March 2021: Due to differences between PCR and lateral tests, Hancock did not want to “unpick” testing policy even though it meant there were many false positives for school-aged children that in effect forced them to isolate at home for 10 days.
● June 2021: Hancock resigned after revelations of his affair with Gina Coladangelo who accompanied him on two dinners whilst attending the G7 summit in Oxford. Hancock was asked for his response to questions regarding Coladangelo’s role. In discussions with Poole, he seemed uncertain whether he and Coladangelo broke any of the restrictions.
● In 2022, the Cabinet Office asked Hancock to remove references to “Wuhan lab leak” in his book.
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