Newly leaked WhatsApp messages reveal how Matt Hancock and officials frantically tried to explain his affair with aide Gina Coladangelo to the public in the hours after the story broke.
The messages are the latest to be released as part of The Telegraph’s Lockdown Files, in which journalist Isabel Oakeshott passed more than 100,000 messages to the newspaper.
The newspaper reports on many of the messages between Mr Hancock and his advisers between when the news of the affair broke on The Sun’s website at 1 am on June 24 2021, and his resignation 41 hours later on June 26 2021.
The messages show Mr Hancock discussing his initial response to media questions with media adviser Damon Poole as they waited for the story to break.
The messages show Mr Hancock asking Mr Poole: “How bad are the pics?”
Mr Poole replies: “It’s a “snog and heavy petting”, to which Mr Hancock says: “How the f*** did anyone photograph that?”
Mr Hancock appears to be concerned about incoming questions on breaking social distancing rules and asking Mr Poole to “keep the focus” on Ms Coladangelo’s appointment.
In one message exchange, Mr Poole asks Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo to think about whether they had broken any Covid rules.
Mr Hancock says: “Other than obviously the 1m+ I honestly can’t think of any.” He then goes on to say that “the worst they can do is “kissed before they legalised hugs”.
The messages also show the reaction of Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo to a video from a CCTV camera obtained by The Sun.
“OMFG”, Ms Coladangelo said.
Mr Hancock said: “Crikey. Not sure there’s much news value in that and I can’t say it’s very enjoyable viewing.”
Other messages show Mr Hancock and his advisers discussing among themselves and liaising with Number 10 about how to respond to the story, and Mr Hancock trying to enlist public support from other MPs.
But later, the messages also reveal that he asked his former mentor and ex-chancellor George Osborne for advice, as he prepared to resign.
The revelations contained in The Telegraph’s reporting has infuriated both bereaved families and teachers.
A spokesperson for Matt Hancock has previously labelled the Telegraph’s ‘Lockdown Files’ as a “distorted account of the pandemic”, being pushed with “partial leaks, spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda, which would have costs hundreds of thousands of lives if followed.
“The full documents have already all been made available to the inquiry, which is the proper place for an objective assessment, so true lessons can be learned.”