‘How the f*** did anyone photograph that?’ – Leaked messages show Hancock’s reaction to footage of him and aide in passionate embrace | Politics News
New leaked messages between Matt Hancock and officials show the then health secretary trying to rescue his career after pictures were published of him embracing aide Gina Coladangelo.
In the messages, Mr Hancock is shown discussing the COVID-19 guidance in place at the time and deciding what his initial response to media questions should be.
As he awaits publication in June 2021, Mr Hancock asked a special adviser: “How bad are the pics?”
Told it’s a “snog and heavy petting”, he replied: “How the f*** did anyone photograph that?”
The messages also showed the reaction of Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo to a video 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.”
He resigned as health secretary shortly afterwards.
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The exchanges are among more than 100,000 messages leaked by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who was given them by Mr Hancock while they were collaborating on his memoir.
Ms Oakeshott turned the messages over to The Daily Telegraph, something Mr Hancock has described as a “massive betrayal”.
She insists her actions were in the public interest.
In his memoir, Mr Hancock said that Boris Johnson had assured him he could carry on even though he and Ms Coladangelo had been pictured kissing in his office in breach of his own social-distancing guidelines.
But after the story broke, Mr Hancock said he was “increasingly isolated” politically and was left with no choice but to quit.
Earlier on Friday, another set of leaked messages were published showing Mr Hancock branded a ministerial colleague a “w*****” and mocked Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme as “eat out to help the virus get about”, leaked messages show.
‘Just officials making mischief’
The latest release of information from The Telegraph focuses on Mr Hancock’s relationship with then chancellor – now prime minister – Rishi Sunak.
One exchange of messages published today took place in June 2020, as the country began to open up from the first lockdown.
Mr Hancock was angry about a story claiming that Mr Sunak had issued warnings over some departments’ spending being out of control.
Speaking with one of his advisers, Mr Hancock said he “spoke to Rishi”, who was “horrified” at the story.
Mr Hancock and his adviser discussed where the story could have come from – who had told the journalist what Mr Sunak was said to think.
The adviser said he assumed it was “just officials making mischief”.
Mr Hancock said “Or Steve Barclay. W—ers. Trying to be all clever about spending control.”
At the time, Mr Barclay, who is now health secretary, was chief secretary of the Treasury, under Mr Sunak.
‘Eat out to help the virus get about’
In December 2020, Mr Hancock complained to his adviser about the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
Launched in summer 2020 by Mr Sunak, the scheme subsidised food at restaurants in order to help support the hospitality industry.
After the scheme had ended, Mr Hancock’s adviser asked if he could call Mr Hancock back after dinner – to which the health secretary quipped “Isn’t that illegal?”
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The adviser said: “Not any more, all thanks to Rishi…”
Mr Hancock replied: “He hasn’t launched another eat out to help the virus get about has he?”
The adviser said: “Got to give the virus a fighting chance, given how well you’re doing with vaccines and testing right now…”
Messages from when the scheme was active show Mr Hancock saying Eat Out to Help Out was “causing problems in our [i]ntervention areas”, but the cabinet minister “kept it out of the news but it’s serious”.
He said the Treasury under Mr Sunak had been told, but Mr Hancock had been “protecting them in the comms”.
It was later estimated that the scheme had caused a “significant” rise in infections.