Leaked WhatsApps reveal Matt Hancock’s reaction to CCTV footage of ‘snog and heavy petting’ with aide
The latest tranche of messages to be published centre on the hours after Mr Hancock discovered that leaked footage, showing him breaching social distancing rules, would appear on the front page of the Sun in June 2021
New leaked messages between Matt Hancock and officials show the then British health secretary scrambling to save his career after footage emerged of his embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo.
They are among the latest set of WhatsApp correspondence to emerge from the leak of more than 100,000 messages by journalist Isabel Oakeshott to the Daily Telegraph.
The latest tranche to be published centre on the hours after Mr Hancock discovered that leaked footage, showing him breaching social distancing rules, would appear on the front page of the Sun in June 2021.
He resigned as health secretary shortly afterwards.
The messages, published by the Telegraph, show Mr Hancock discussing the guidance in place at the time and deciding what his initial response to media questions should be.
As he awaits publication, Mr Hancock asks a special adviser: “How bad are the pics?”
Told it’s a “snog and heavy petting”, he replies: “How the f— did anyone photograph that?”
The messages also show 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.”
In his diaries, worked on with Ms Oakeshott and published last year, Mr Hancock said that he resigned as health secretary after colleagues failed to defend him publicly.
By his own account, he 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 found himself “increasingly isolated” politically and was left with no choice but to quit.
The messages show Mr Hancock and his advisers discussing among themselves and liaising with Number 10 about how to respond to the story, amid an unfolding political storm.
They also reveal that he asked his former mentor and ex-chancellor George Osborne for advice, as he prepared to resign.
The journalist who published thousands of Mr Hancock's WhatsApp messages hung up on a radio interview after getting into a heated row about leaking the story to The Telegraph.
Isabel Oakeshott, TalkTV’s international editor, has made headlines in recent days over her decision to leak thousands of messages sent by Mr Hancock when he was health secretary during the pandemic and when his lockdown-breaking affair was revealed.
On Friday, Ms Oakeshott got into a fiery clash with Cathy Newman, who started the Times Radio interview by asking why she had shared the story with The Telegraph rather than her TalkTV colleagues or other organisations owned by News Corp.
Ms Oakeshott hit back at Ms Newman focusing on where the story was published rather than the WhatsApp messages themselves and hung up after just a few minutes, ending the Times Radio interview without answering a single question.
Ms Newman brought up an alleged “shouting match” between Ms Oakeshott and Harry Cole, the political editor of The Sun - which is also owned by News Corp. Ms Newman asked whether it was fair for “producers and reporters on a fraction of your salary were having to kind of put up with your sloppy seconds, and follow up on the story in a rival newspaper”.
Ms Oakeshott immediately fired back: “I'm just not going to go down this route Cathy.”
She added: “I think people are much more interested in what the investigation reveals.
“Most of our listeners won't know the individuals that you're referring to. I think that it’s kind of absurd that you should be quoting wild figures about my contract with any news organisation. That's my business it’s not yours."
Ms Newman persisted in this line of questioning, prompting Ms Oakeshott to repeatedly threaten to hang up. “I'm going to terminate the interview. This is my last warning, okay."
She then accused Ms Newman of being “unprofessional” and tried to turn the tables by asking Ms Newman how much she was paid.
"I haven't hit the headlines. You've hit the headlines, Isabel,” Ms Newman said.
"Well maybe if you broke some stories you would," Ms Oakeshott shot back.
The interview ended when Ms Oakeshott hung up halfway through a question about her journalistic ethics. Ms Newman had been asking about Ms Oakeshott’s habit of leaking information given to her by sources.
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