Ministers considered an ‘insane plan’ to release thousands of prisoners during the Covid lockdown, Matt Hancock has revealed in explosive diaries that open the lid on the inside story of the pandemic.
The long-awaited book by the former health minister, Pandemic Diaries, chronicles the extraordinary drama, feuds, blunders, failures and triumphs of the government’s struggle to deal with a once-in-a-century crisis.
The diaries will be published exclusively in the Daily Mail from Saturday, with the first extracts available on The Mail+ from 5pm tomorrow.
Mr Hancock has also given an extensive interview to the Mail, in which he talks candidly about his time at the I’m a celebrity jungle and fall ‘deeply’ in love with former assistant Gina Coladangelo. That too will appear tomorrow at 5 p.m. on The Mail+.
Matt Hancock’s thrilling diaries reveal what really happened at the heart of government in the early days of the pandemic
As health secretary in Boris Johnson’s government during the pandemic, Mr Hancock played a central role in a series of huge – and often controversial – decisions, including lockdowns, travel restrictions and the procurement and rollout of the world’s first Covid vaccine.
In the book’s prologue, Mr. Hancock says he was “in the hot seat” during the fastest-moving and most intense crisis “in human history.”
“I am proud of what we have achieved, especially on the vaccine front,” he writes. “But there’s a lot to learn before the next public health crisis of this kind, which I’m sure will happen in my lifetime.”
His diaries reveal the astonishing debates at the heart of government as ministers struggled to cope with the magnitude of the crisis.
Mr Hancock reunites with Gina Coladangelo after he voted off I’m a Celeb
With the first lockdown looming in March 2020, Hancock says he was pressured to sign the release of thousands of inmates to prevent them from contracting the virus in prison.
In his entry for March 17, he writes: “A crazy proposal from the Justice Department to release prisoners because they are easier to manage when they are not in prison. Yes really: they actually thought this could be a goer. I stressed [my opposition] so hard that my chair suddenly couldn’t handle the tension and tore, causing me to fall unceremoniously to the floor.’
Despite his opposition, officials will continue to fight for the plan for another two weeks.
After removing his jungle dirt, Mr. Hancock goes to the party at the end of the show with Miss Coladangelo
Hancock wrote on April 3, “Officials are still insisting that Attorney General Rob Buckland wants to release thousands of non-violent prisoners to take the pressure off the system. I will continue to write “NO” in big letters on submissions asking me to sign off on this. Obviously the public won’t bear it, but the idea keeps going back and forth on paper.
“After about the third iteration, I called Rob Buckland, who told me, to my surprise, that he had been told I was the one to release them.
Unfortunately, this was not the end of the matter. Clearly someone in Whitehall still thought it was a good idea and pushed it, to the point that the Prime Minister asked to speak to both of us. I have made my views crystal clear.
“We can’t literally lock up everyone in the country except prisoners, who we release instead, I stuttered.”
Cummings and Hancock (circled) during a thrilling No10 meeting with Boris Johnson and Chris Whitty in late February 2020
Matt Hancock on Australia’s Gold Coast for his exclusive interview with the Mail
Mr. Hancock’s book reveals several stunning facts about the government’s handling of the pandemic from its inception when the virus was first identified in China.
The revelations will no doubt spark controversy over the government’s response and are likely to lead to important lines of inquiry for the public inquiry into the disaster.
The former health secretary also sheds new light on the internal power struggle as key players such as Mr Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove argued over how far and how fast to go in shutting down the economy to protect lives.
Mr. Hancock also addresses the issues and frustrations of outside players, including Donald Trump, the European Union and Nicola Sturgeon.
And he hits back at Dominic Cummings, who has publicly blasted his response to the pandemic.
During an explosive evidence session with MPs last year, Mr Johnson’s former chief aide labeled Mr Hancock a liar and attacked his record on care homes, Covid testing, personal protective equipment and vaccines, saying it Ministry of Health in spring 2020.
Mr Cummings said he repeatedly urged Mr Johnson to fire Mr Hancock.
In the coming days, Mr. Hancock will paint a very different picture as he finally reveals his own side of the story and details his battle with Mr. Cummings, who launched a vengeful campaign against Mr. Johnson and his government after being outed at the end. his office was set. of 2020.