Lifelong Tory tells Hancock and Johnson ‘I won’t forgive Covid deaths’

Isabel Oakeshott was sent 'menacing message' from Matt Hancock after leak

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A lifelong Conservative voter who lost his dad to Covid-19 has told he will “never forgive” former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former Health Secretary Matt Hancock for their handling of the pandemic while in Government. Mr Hancock’s decision-making during the health crisis is in the spotlight after Isabel Oakeshott, the journalist who helped write the former Health Secretary’s “Pandemic Diaries”, leaked his WhatsApp messages from his time in Cabinet. Among the revelations were messages allegedly showing Mr Hancock refused to listen to advice from the Government’s adviser Chris Whitty regarding Covid tests for people going into care homes.

Mr Hancock has denied this, with his spokesperson saying in a statement that “these stolen messages have been doctored to create a false story that Matt rejected clinical advice on care home testing. This is flat wrong.”

Other exchanges appeared to show Matt Hancock asking former Chancellor and then Editor of the Evening Standard, George Osborne, for a front-page “splash” to help the Government reach its testing targets.

Speaking to, David Garfinkel of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK group, says the leaked messages reinforce what many bereaved families feared about the Government’s handling of the pandemic – that they acted slowly and ignored scientific advice.

He said: “The evidence does lean into what we have kind of felt for a very long time. Shambolic decisions took place, yes in an incredibly difficult circumstance, but some very shambolic decisions were happening and it appears contrary to the scientific advice at the time.

“That led to the failure to protect thousands of people, costing hundreds of thousands of lives. Too many people died before their time because of the decisions the Government made.”

Mr Garfinkel’s 76-year-old father, Ivor, was one of the many who died during the pandemic. His dad died of Covid-19 just three weeks after Prime Minister Johnson unlocked the country on July 19 2021, also known as ‘Freedom Day’.

He added: “When I heard Freedom Day being announced, and my dad was a shielder, I felt like he was being thrown to the wolves.”

Ivor had an underlying autoimmune condition and was one of the many millions of people who had to shield during the pandemic. Mr Garfinkel says his father and wider family followed the rules right up until Ivor’s death.

This meant Ivor was unable to see his family in the days prior to his death.

Mr Garfinkel says that some of the messages included in the Telegraph’s expose seem to show the “emphasis was on political expedience and the economy rather than human lives.”

Evidence is currently being gathered for the inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic, but Mr Garfinkel is frustrated that representatives of bereaved families will not get to cross-examine those who were in Government at the time.

He added that Mr Hancock’s book, his appearance on I’m a Celebrity and other endeavours have left bereaved families “reliving the trauma of the pandemic every day”.

Mr Garfinkel said: “It doesn’t go away. One minute my dad was standing there alive and well, the next minute he was gone. I couldn’t be with him, I couldn’t speak to him when he was in ICU. He was just taken from my life.

“We have to relive these horrors through all these endless exposes that happen, like partygate, Hanock’s book and I’m a Celebrity. It’s really tough.”

Asked what he would say to the former Health Secretary, Mr Garfinkel responded: “That’s a really difficult question. Matt Hancock should make available every piece of evidence he has to help the inquiry. (Mr Hancock has stated that he has submitted the messages to the inquiry).

“He should focus every minute of every day supporting the inquiry in every way it needs. Not writing books, and not going to the jungle to be a celebrity.

“They need to pause and reflect on this culture in politics where people ask clear questions but never get the truth. That’s what bereaved families are asking for. The truth, an apology, and an admission that they messed up.

“Put your personal career on the back burner and actually prioritise ensuring that this never happens again. I also think there needs to be a police investigation.”

And on whether he and others who have lost loved ones to Covid could ever forgive those who were in charge at the time, he added: “I can’t answer that because I’d be speaking for around 200,00 people.

“It needs to be spun around a different way. If his (Mr Hancock’s) desire for forgiveness is genuine, he needs to do these things. Whether that ultimately leads to anyone forgiving him can only be determined when all the facts are out and our lawyers have cross-examined him.

“Personally, I never will forgive him (Mr Hancock) or Johnson. All my life I have been a Tory supporter, but I will never forgive them for what they did. They have collectively destroyed this country. This country is on its knees and it is directly because of what they have done.”

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When approached by for comment, a spokesperson for Mr Hancock sent a statement previously made on behalf of the MP for West Suffolk.

They said: “I am hugely disappointed and sad at the massive betrayal and breach of trust by Isabel Oakshott. 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.

“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. As we have seen, releasing them in this way gives a partial, biased account to suit an anti-lockdown agenda.

“Isabel and I had worked closely together for more than a year on my book, based on legal confidentiality and a process approved by the Cabinet Office. Isabel repeatedly reiterated the importance of trust throughout, and then broke that trust.

“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.”

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