The writer, who gave the newspaper more than 100,000 messages from former health secretary Matt Hancock, defended her actions, saying she was acting in the national interest.
Isabel Oakeshott, who is at the center of the dispute over the leak of Hancock’s correspondence to the Daily Telegraph, responded after he criticized her actions.
“The greatest betrayal is the whole country,” she said in a statement responding to Hancock’s accusation that she had betrayed his trust.
Oakeshott added: “Although he finds it hard to believe, this is not about Matt Hancock or any other politician. It’s not about me either.
Along with the Telegraph, Oakeshott – a longtime critic of public health measures taken by the government during the Covid pandemic – sought to present the leaked news as evidence that some lockdown restrictions were unnecessary.
On Thursday, she said: “We have all been disappointed by the response to the pandemic and repeated unnecessary lockdowns. Children, in particular, paid a terrible price. Anyone who questioned an approach that we know was fatally wrong was completely maligned; including highly respected and distinguished public health experts, physicians and scientists.
“So far from being protected, the NHS may never recover, as millions of patients stuck on year-long waiting lists are discovering. Meanwhile, the economy is in a deplorable state.
“It is now important that the public opinion poll, set up almost two years ago, quickly set the deadlines for its work and answer the pressing question of whether the lockdown, with all its effects, was proportionate. These issues need to be resolved well before the next general election.
“Against this background, Telegraph disclosure is clearly in the huge public interest. The outpouring of support that I and the paper have received from ordinary people who have suffered – and continue to suffer – the consequences of the mistakes we expose shows how desperately the nation wants answers.
“I make no apologies in any way for acting in the national interest: the worst betrayal of all would be to cover up these truths.”
The lengthy statement came after Hancock said he was the victim of “massive betrayal and breach of trust” after the news was leaked.
The former health minister also apologized for the impact their dismissal had on those he worked with during the pandemic.
Hancock broke the news to Oakeshott as they collaborated on his memoirs. She then passed them on to the Telegraph, which published a series of articles based on correspondence with other ministers and officials.
Oakeshott faced questions as to why she wrote a book for Hancock that outlined his version of the government’s response to the pandemic while she had WhatsApp messages in her hand, which she says tell a different story. She said that she wrote the book he wanted, that there was too much material to go through at the time, and that after she finished writing Hancock’s book for him, her responsibility shifted to the public.
Hancock said: “I am very disappointed and sad about the massive betrayal and breach of trust by Isabel Oakeshott.
“I also apologize for the impact on so many people – political colleagues, civil servants and friends – who have worked hard with me to get through the pandemic and save lives.”
He said there was “absolutely no public interest in this massive breach” as all the material used in his book Pandemic Diaries was turned over to the Covid-19 Public Inquiry.