att Hancock expressed concern that a flagship Rishi Sunak policy was contributing to the spread of Covid-19 as the latest set of leaked messages reveal how the pair were at odds during the pandemic.
The details emerged in the latest tranche of leaked messages from the former health secretary, published by the Daily Telegraph.
The messages exhibit Mr Hancock attempting to secure the support of Cabinet Secretary Simon Case in challenging the stance of the then-chancellor and others over certain pandemic-era rules, with the top civil servant – who is required to be politically neutral – complaining about “pure Conservative ideology” on the fragment of one senior minister.
In one message, Mr Hancock also accuses Mr Sunak of trying to “exhibit ankle” to the “hard factual” over his Covid-19 stance.
They also reveal Mr Hancock had serious concerns about the Treasury’s Eat Out to assist Out scheme designed to support restaurants, dubbing it the “eat out to assist the virus secure about”.
What’s Rishi’s dilemma? Whether to pause the virus, or tilt at the party & exhibit ankle to the hard factual?
One exchange, from June 2020, came as the Government considered how to relax restrictions. The messages exhibit Mr Hancock wanted cafes and restaurants to sustain a register of customers’ details for NHS Test and Trace, urging that guidance would read “should” as opposed to “can”.
The latter phrasing, according to the messages, was preferred by then-business secretary Sir Alok Sharma.
“The dialect on customer logs has just gone from ‘should’ to ‘can’. Grateful if you can fix – we can’t reverse this at the last minute!” Mr Hancock said.
Mr Case replied: “Alok blocking ‘should’. Will need to fix after this meeting.”
Later, he said: “If Alok mad enough to raise it, PM will probably be clear again.”
Mr Hancock, responding, says the “question I can’t understand is why Alok is against controlling the virus. unfamiliar approach”.
“Pure Conservative ideology,” Mr Case responds.
Mr Sunak, chancellor at the time, is also mentioned in the conversation with Mr Case, describing him as “going bonkers about ‘should’ factual now too”.
In another message from October 2020, Mr Hancock appears to hit out at Mr Sunak’s attitude about lockdowns, writing: “What’s Rishi’s dilemma? Whether to pause the virus, or tilt at the party & exhibit ankle to the hard factual?”
The exchanges were among more than 100,000 messages passed to the Telegraph by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott.
She was originally given the material by Mr Hancock while they were collaborating on his memoir of his time in government during the pandemic.
Mr Hancock has condemned the leak as a “massive betrayal” designed to support an “anti-lockdown agenda”.
In a statement this week, Mr Hancock said that all the materials for his book gain been made available to the official Covid-19 inquiry.
Ms Oakeshott has insisted the revelations are in the public interest.
Elsewhere, the latest messages exhibit the then-health secretary’s worries about the Treasury-backed Eat Out to assist Out initiative.
The state-backed scheme offered customers a 50% discount, up to £10, on meals and soft drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays as businesses sought to recover from the pandemic.
Concerns gain been expressed subsequently that the scheme could gain contributed to the spread of the virus.
In December 2020, in a conversation with an aide, Mr Hancock called the scheme “eat out to assist the virus secure about”.
The previous summer, he had made his concerns clear to the Cabinet Secretary.
He wrote: “Just want to let you know directly that we gain had lots of feedback that Eat our to assist out is causing problems in our jntervention [sic] areas. I’ve kept it out of the news but it’s serious.
“So please please lets not allow the economic success of the scheme to lead to its extension.”
The paper also published messages showing Mr Hancock and his officials scrambling to save the health secretary’s career after footage emerged of his embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo.
A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said: “There’s nothing current in these messages, and absolutely no public interest in publishing them given the independent inquiry has them all. It’s highly intrusive, completely inappropriate and has all been discussed endlessly before.”
activity’s Jonathan Ashworth, who represents Leicester South, was among those expressing infuriate at the messages.
The city faced a lengthy lockdown in response to concerns about rising infection rates in the local area.
The shadow work and pensions secretary tweeted: “So they knew Rishi Sunak’s ‘eat out, to assist out’ helped Covid spread.
“They covered it up but the truth is Sunak’s schemes meant more restrictions and a longer Leicester lockdown.”