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Matt Hancock 'fought to be face of vaccine rollout', WhatsApps reveal

Matt Hancock ‘fought to be the face of the UK’s vaccine rollout, bemoaned not being live on camera as the Pfizer jab got the green light and worried he would be overshadowed by Business Secretary Alok Sharma’, leaked WhatsApps reveal

  • Mr Hancock was determined to become ‘Mr vaccine’ and gain politically 
  • Aides told him it ‘doesn’t matter if you don’t succeed’ but he must be seen to try
  • Read more: Matt Hancock took lover Gina Coladangelo to G7 summit dinners

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock was determined to spin the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine as a ‘Hancock triumph’ and become ‘Mr vaccine’ in the media as he worried about other politicians overshadowing him, leaked messages show.

Mr Hancock was told by advisors that the public would ‘forgive’ him for being supportive of lockdowns if he could claim vaccines as his success, leading the MP to try to be the face of the campaign.

The eagerness to become ‘Mr vaccine’ came to light in messages revealed by The Telegraph on Sunday, after ghostwriter and journalist Isabel Oakeshott leaked more than 100,000 of his WhatsApp messages to the paper.

When positive news came of a vaccine ‘turbo boost’ in January 2021, Mr Hancock told aides: ‘I CALLED FOR THIS TWO MONTHS AGO. This is a Hancock triumph!’ 

Mr Hancock had reportedly already battled with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in order to retain control of any future jabs rollout.

Mr Hancock was determined to be seen as ‘Mr vaccine’ and placed himself at the forefront of media coverage, even appearing to break down on Good Morning Britain

Mr Hancock, pictured receiving his Covid booster jab, was worried about being overshadowed by Business Secretary Alok Sharma – having already fought the department to retain control of vaccine rollouts

When he heard of an imminent announcement about the success of vaccine trials from Pfizer in November 2020, the then-Health Secretary became worried he would be overshadowed by other ministers.

The messages show him communicating with his media advisor Damon Poole, who tells him of the upcoming announcement. The MP seems keen to ensure he is on camera and visible to the public. 

Mr Hancock said: ‘Pity I’m not up in the Commons! I should do a clip.’ 

‘Yep,’ replied the advisor.

Mr Hancock then asked if No.10 knew about the announcement, adding he should speak to the media in the morning: ‘I should DEFINITELY do the round tmrw.’ 

He appears to celebrate that other news topics ‘won’t be the lead’ and panicked about being overshadowed by Business Minister Alok Sharma.

‘It MUST NOT be Alok!’, Mr Hancock typed.

‘I know, I’m worried,’ replied Mr Poole.

Instead of a video, when Pfizer announced their vaccine was more than 90 percent effective against coronavirus, Mr Hancock tweeted saying the news was the result of ‘phenomenal work of scientists and clinicians around the world’.

He then appeared across UK media networks the following morning to speak about the vaccine success, even appearing to break down in tears of happiness on Good Morning Britain.

The eagerness to become ‘Mr vaccine’ came to light in messages revealed by The Telegraph on Sunday, after ghostwriter and journalist Isabel Oakeshott (right) leaked more than 100,000 of his WhatsApp messages to the paper

Mr Hancock was keen to ‘own’ vaccine success, and told aides: ‘This is a Hancock triumph!’

Earlier in the vaccine process, Mr Hancock told aide Jamie Njoku-Goodwin he ‘must own’ the development of any jab.

‘I need to meet this scientist – who is at the same Oxford college I was at’.

Mr Njoku-Goodwin, who has since left the Department of Health to become the CEO of UK Music, replied: ‘Yup. People see it as the way out. 

‘They will forgive you for being in favour of lockdown if they think you are working night and day for a vaccine.’ 

He added Mr Hancock was in ‘the ideal place to be’, adding: ‘People don’t mind if you don’t succeed. They mind if it doesn’t look like we are trying.’

He suggested speaking directly with pharmaceutical companies to try and help, before Mr Hancock could swoop in on the success.

Mr Njoku-Goodwin said: ‘It won’t take any work – we don’t have to do anything, industry is all geared up for this. 

‘We just need to turn up to the parade, salute and cut the ribbon. It’s purely a comms/political thing. 

‘Bizarrely, pushing on vaccines will be the least resource intensive thing we do, but the most politically beneficial.’ 

By December 2020 Mr Hancock was criticising media coverage that failed to give him credit for the vaccine rollout, telling his media advisor Mr Poole ‘we need to be on the front foot from tomorrow’.

He continued: ‘Very annoying not to have any of the good news up our sleeve. But could be worse – everyone knows I’m Mr vaccine and this is the route out.’

Barely two weeks later, Mr Hancock became infuriated after the UK’s medicines regulator MHRA appeared to have briefed the press on cutting down the time it takes for vaccine approval without informing the DHSC.

Matt Hancock said: ‘Weird. But isn’t that good news? Is it true?’

Mr Poole replied: ‘Believe it’s true. But they [MHRA] can’t be blindsiding everyone.’

The Health Secretary raged: ‘I CALLED FOR THIS TWO MONTHS AGO. This is a Hancock triumph! And if it IS true we neeed [sic] to accelerate massively.’

The messages are just the latest in a stream of revelations to emerge this week.

Earlier on Sunday it was revealed Mr Hancock took his lover Gina Coladangelo to two private dinners with the US Health Secretary at the G7 summit, and then intervened to ensure the fact he invited her was struck from the record.

Even after being forced to resign due to the affair proving he had broken social distancing guidelines, Mr Poole, who remained in the department, messaged Mr Hancock to discuss how to justify Ms Coladangelo’s attendance at the events.

Other messages show the Health Secretary appeared to ignore Sir Chris Whitty’s advice that all care home residents should be tested for Covid-19 before entering the home.

They also revealed his reaction when The Sun informed him his affair with Ms Coladangelo was about to be exposed.

Mr Hancock reportedly phoned the Prime Minister to tell him about the affair before going home to tell his wife. 

In discussing how to deal with the inevitable media coverage, Mr Hancock said: ‘I could apologise for the whole thing. I have – after all – cheated on my wife.’

Representatives for Matt Hancock have been contacted for comment. 

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