Matt Hancock ‘wanted to scare everyone in pants during the pandemic’

Matt Hancock's plan to ?scare everyone?  about Covid

More messages from the former health secretary during the pandemic have leaked (Image: Getty)

Matt Hancock has told his colleagues he wants to “scare everyone away” to make sure they follow Covid rules, leaked news has revealed.

The texts – which were part of an estimated 100,000 Telegraph leaks last week – also reveal discussions about when to “implement” details of the new strain.

They show how Mr. Hancock and others discussed how to use the Kent virus variant announcement to scare the public into changing their behavior.

The former health secretary said last week that the news leak by journalist Isabell Oakeshott was “a great betrayal of trust”.

Some messages between Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and Mr Hancock suggest a “fear” factor would be “essential” to contain the spread of the virus in January 2021.

The leak has already revealed Rishi Sunak and Mr Hancock complaining about Dominic Cummings’ “nightmare” tenure at Downing Street.

It also showed Hancock’s repeated concerns that Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out initiative is contributing to the spread of Covid-19.

The latest communications show how Mr. Hancock and others have approached government communications at various stages of the pandemic.

Matt Hancock book launch

Hancock and journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who broke the news to the Telegraph (Image: Andrew Parsons/Parsons Media)

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock gives an update on the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic during a virtual press conference at the new Downing Street briefing room in central London, April 28, 2021. (Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/POOL/AFP) (Photo: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH) /POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Hancock said he intended to “intimidate” the public into following the lockdown rules (Image: AFP/Getty)

In December 2020, there is concern from stock exchanges that London Mayor Sadiq Khan may follow in the footsteps of Andy Burnham, who clashed with the government over the decision to impose stringent restrictions on the region.

Mr Hancock’s adviser said: “Rather than making too many forward signaling, we can change the key with a new strain.”

“We are scaring everyone with the new strain,” replied the then health secretary.

“But the complications of this Brexit are the most important,” he said, apparently referring to media coverage of Britain’s exit from the EU.

“Yes, that’s what will ensure the right behavior change,” said the counselor.

“When we implement the new variant,” said Hancock.

The December 13 call came amid concerns about the rapid spread of the virus in South East England.

Hancock announced that a new variant of Covid-19 had been identified in the UK the next day.

Less than a week later, it was announced that London and the South East of England were to enter a new 4th family alert level for a meeting.

All of England went into a third national lockdown on January 6.

The January 10 news shows Hancock and the Cabinet Secretary discussing ways to ensure compliance.

“The only thing to consider might be wearing more masks.

‘Effectively free and has a very visible impact? Wear masks in all places outside the home and in more workplaces?

“I’m not sure that took us much further, did it?” Basically, we need to improve compliance.

Mr. Hancock tells him, after a brief discussion of fishing, that “he honestly wouldn’t move any little things unless we moved a lot.”

Matt Hancock's texting

He previously claimed “we didn’t break any fucking law” (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Mr. Case agrees: “I think that’s exactly right. Little things look funny. Speeding up messaging – a key fear/guilt factor.

“I suspect the London Nightingale launch will look like a big public moment.

“Especially as I suppose it will fill up within a few days (based on current figures).”

Ms Oakeshott originally received the footage from Mr Hancock when they collaborated on memories of his time in government during the pandemic.

In a statement this week, Hancock said all material for his book has been released to the official Covid-19 investigation.

Ms Oakeshott said disclosures were in the public interest.

Some of the news also offered insight into Boris Johnson’s mindset at different stages of the pandemic.

For example, in August 2020, he warned that government communications were becoming “distorted”, referring to “private focus groups”.

“People, my private focus groups tell me that our messages are now so distorted that they are completely unintelligible.

“We need a big reset and simple themes pumped over the airwaves, especially about social distancing and how many people you can have in your house etc.” – he wrote.

A spokesman for the former prime minister said: “It is not appropriate to comment on these leaks.

“Public inquiry provides a proper process for investigating these issues.”

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