Former health secretary Matt Hancock has accused journalist Isabel Oakeshott of a “massive betrayal” after she leaked WhatsApp messages he sent during the Covid pandemic.
The messages were passed to The Telegraph by journalist Ms Oakeshott, who obtained them while ghostwriting the former health secretary’s memoir Pandemic Diaries.
Ms Oakeshott claimed that she chose to release the messages as it would take “many years” before the inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic concluded.
In a statement released on Thursday, Mr Hancock said: “I am hugely disappointed and sad at the massive betrayal and breach of trust by Isabel 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.”
Mr Hancock continued: “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.”
The leaked messages have included exchanges between Mr Hancock and senior figures including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, NHS England’s Professor Sir Chris Whitty and former Education Secretary Sir Gavin Williamson.
A number of civil servants and former aides have also been directly named in exchanges from The Telegraph.
Ms Oakeshott told the i that she had acted in the “national interest” when she chose to release the messages.
“We simply cannot wait 10 years to learn lessons (of the Covid lockdown),” she said. “These WhatsApp messages provide far quicker information about what was really being said and done by those in charge of the response. Their release is overwhelmingly in the public interest.”
Mr Hancock also died Ms Oakeshott’s claims that he had sent her “menacing” messages.
He said: “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.”