Isabel Oakeshott was sent ‘menacing message’ from Matt Hancock after leak
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Matt Hancock’s team asked if they could “lock up” Nigel Farage, leaked WhatsApp messages show. The comments came on July 4 2020, when Mr Farage was the leader of the Brexit Party.
While at a pub in Kent, the leading Brexiteer shared a video of himself drinking his “first proper pint in 103 days”.
This came two weeks after Mr Farage had travelled to the US and was filmed attending a Donald Trump rally in Oklahoma.
At this point, anyone entering England was required to quarantine at home for 14 days due to Covid restrictions. Failing to do so would have resulted in a fine of at least £1,000.
In WhatsApp messages seen by the Telegraph, Mr Hancock messages the ‘MH top team’ with a link to a story suggesting Mr Farage may have broken Covid rules.
The then Health Secretary said: “We need to discuss urgently.”
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, one of Mr Hancock’s aides at the time, replied: “Does he count as a pub hooligan? Can we lock him up?”
A senior civil servant then asked if Mr Hancock “needed anything” and suggested that this might be a matter for Priti Patel, then Home Secretary.
Mr Hancock then said: “Can you ask HO PO if they are considering it. Isn’t enforcement for PHE?”
The then Health Secretary then asked his team to contact the Home Office despite the police being operationally independent from the department.
Mr Njoku-Goodwin then added: that he had “just spoken to HO [Home Office] spads”.
He continued: “Sounds like we need to get PHE to do one of their ‘spot checks’ and prove that he isn’t at home.”
Mr Hancock then asked for Mr Farage’s case to be treated “like any other”. He added that any action had to be taken by the Home Office, not the Department for Health.
At the time, Mr Farage denied breaking any rules because he had already isolated for the 14-day period. He tweeted a photo with the caption: “Sorry to disappoint you. Cheers!”
But, on Thursday, Mr Farage told the Telegraph he may have broken the rules.
Hitting out at Mr Hancock, the former UKIP leader said: “If I was being honest with you, after the first set of lockdowns I wasn’t really prepared for some little pipsqueak like Matt Hancock to tell me how to live my life, quite frankly,” he said.
“That photo was taken when I came back from America, on the day the pubs opened.
“It was pretty nip and tuck … which means I probably was in breach. I’m probably a Covidiot.”
He added: “The idea that headmaster Hancock was after me – I love it,”
Mr Farage said he was visited by the police three times during the pandemic.
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Mr Hancock’s WhatsApp messages have been leaked to the Telegraph by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who helped the MP for West Suffolk write his “Pandemic diaries”.
She has claimed that she was motivated to leak the messages because they were in the public interest.
But a spokesperson for Mr Hancock released a statement saying: “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.
“There is absolutely no public interest case for this huge breach. All the materials for the book have already been made available to the Inquiry, which is the right, and only, place for everything to be considered properly and the right lessons to be learned. As we have seen, releasing them in this way gives a partial, biased account to suit an anti-lockdown agenda.
“Isabel and I had worked closely together for more than a year on my book, based on legal confidentiality and a process approved by the Cabinet Office. Isabel repeatedly reiterated the importance of trust throughout, and then broke that trust.
“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.
“I will not be commenting further on any other stories or false allegations that Isabel will make. I will respond to the substance in the appropriate place, at the inquiry, so that we can properly learn all the lessons based on a full and objective understanding of what happened in the pandemic, and why.”
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