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UK ‘Lockdown Files’: Public Health Conman Matt Hancock Used Guilt & Fear to Control Public Behavior

‘Lockdown Files’: U.K. Health Officials Used ‘Guilt’ and ‘Fear’ — Not Science — to Control Public Behavior

Private WhatsApp messages shared with The Telegraph reveal how U.K. health officials, including former health secretary Matt Hancock, made COVID-19 policy decisions based on political expediency rather than science, as health officials claimed publicly.

March 7, 2023: Private WhatsApp messages released in recent days detail how U.K. health officials, including former health secretary Matt Hancock, made COVID-19 policy decisions based on political expediency rather than science, as health officials publicly claimed.

The messages “raise vital new questions about the handling of the pandemic ahead of a public inquiry into the response to COVID-19” and reveal “devastating details about the pandemic response that had until now remained secret,” according to The Telegraph, which obtained the archive of more than 100,000 messages from — dubbed The Lockdown Files — from journalist Isabel Oakeshott.

Oakeshott is co-author of Hancock’s book, Pandemic Diaries: The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle Against COVID.”

Hancock was the first member of the U.K. government to announce a lockdown, in statements made March 16, 2020, based on advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). The lockdown officially began a week later.

The messages expose how officials informally made decisions about lockdowns, mask mandates, social distancing and isolation, quarantines, vaccine distribution and a host of other COVID-19-related issues, and how the decisions were politically motivated.

The Telegraph described the content of the leaked messages as “a case study in groupthink”:

“With other Cabinet members, too, often enjoying a limited ability to question the moves of the main decision-makers, restrictions that abridged the liberty of millions appear to have been taken on a gut feeling — not necessarily about what would work but sometimes about what was politically easiest.
Without having to explain themselves to Parliament, ministers would say that they were ‘following the best scientific advice.’”

Fear and guilt ‘vital tools’ to ensure compliance

One of the key revelations is how Hancock and other key U.K. government figures and advisers ensured public compliance with repeated lockdowns and other strict measures.

On Dec. 13, 2020, facing opposition within the ranks of his own Conservative Party over the prospect of a new lockdown and worries that Brexit talks would overshadow the COVID-19 narrative, one of Hancock’s media advisers, Damon Poole, suggested to Hancock, “We can roll pitch with the new strain” — referring to the recently identified Alpha variant of COVID-19.

Hancock responded, “We frighten the pants off everyone with the new strain,” to which Poole replied, “Yep that’s what will get proper bahviour [sic] change.”

In another message, Hancock asked his adviser, “When do we deploy the new variant?”

Discussions that followed after Christmas between Hancock and cabinet secretary Simon Case sought to identify ways to sell the strictest possible measures to the public.

A surge in reported cases followed, and the government subsequently withdrew a five-day easing of measures that had been planned for Christmas on Dec. 18, 2020.

“Fear” and “guilt” were identified as “vital tools in ensuring compliance,” according to The Telegraph, as was mandatory mask wearing in “all settings,” because it had a “very visible impact.”

Those methods strongly resemble “nudging,” a behavioral psychology technique that seeks to change people’s behavior to attain desired outcomes. Hancock employed the methods, for instance, when he told young people in the U.K. to abide by government restrictions so you “don’t kill your gran.”

The Behavioural Insights Team advised the U.K. government during the pandemic. The team shared members with the Independent Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours, a subgroup of SAGE — which strongly encouraged the use of “nudging.”

Previously, in summer 2020, with reported COVID-19 cases at low levels in the U.K. and dining set to reopen, Hancock and his advisers believed the threat of localized lockdowns would not be “unhelpful” to maintain a level of fear amongst the public, to which Hancock responded, “that’s no bad thing.”

Vaccines: ‘purely a comms/political thing’

“The Lockdown Files” also revealed that a host of COVID-19 policy decisions were made with political expediency, public image and future career prospects in mind — though the public was told that those decisions were based on “science.”

Early in the pandemic, on Jan. 29, 2020, Hancock sent a long message to an aide explaining to him how he could use “a crisis of this scale to propel [himself] into the next league.”

By mid-April 2020, just weeks into the first lockdown but months away from the release of the first COVID-19 vaccines, Hancock and media adviser Jamie Njoku-Goodwin discussed how “pushing on vaccine” and being “first out of the blocks on vaccine” would be “the most politically beneficial thing they do.”

Far from being based on “science,” this strategy was described as “purely a comms/political thing.”

During the second lockdown in 2020, Hancock angled to link his name to a government plan to supply Vitamin D to the vulnerable, telling Poole to “base it on ‘new evidence emerged and I’ve acted fast’ … swift & decisive.”

The U.K. press reported the story the following day, using almost the same language.

In other instances, Hancock remarked “I think I look great” and “f— that’s good” in relation to press coverage related to him and the cabinet. He also focused on his social media activity, telling aides “I want people to think I’m working so hard I’m crazy.”

‘We are going to own the exit’ from lockdowns

Optics also came into play with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines. “The Lockdown Files” revealed that Hancock sought to take credit for vaccine “successes” — and “became furious if he thought others were getting the credit,” The Telegraph reported.

In an April 2020 discussion with media advisers, Hancock talked about how being the public face of the U.K.’s vaccine program would lead the press and the public to “forgive” him for imposing lockdowns, adding that it was necessary “politically” to balance the two.

In December 2020, as the first COVID-19 vaccines were about to roll out, Hancock and his advisers discussed how the government could come out ahead in the public eye. Hancock told Poole, “We are going to own the exit [from lockdowns]. That is the strategic imperative.”

Hancock also sought to have vaccine distribution described as a “Hancock triumph.”

When U.K. government vaccines tsar Dame Kate Bingham suggested in October 2020 that COVID-19 vaccination of the entire population was “not going to happen” and that only “everyone at risk” would receive the jab, Hancock described her as “wacky” and “totally unreliable” in messages to his advisers.

The leaks also revealed that Hancock sought the assistance of Bill Gates to promote the U.K.’s New Variant Assessment Platform — a system said to quickly identify new virus variants — to other countries.

Discussing this prospect with Poole, who was attempting to contact Gates, Hancock joked, “Tell him that considering how many people I’m getting his chips injected into, he owes me one!” According to The Telegraph, Gates did not endorse the platform.

Hancock was one of the U.K. government’s foremost supporters of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) “Great Reset” and “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR).

In October 2017, Hancock introduced WEF founder Klaus Schwab to the U.K. Parliament — “applauding” the creation of a parliamentary group on the 4IR, saying Schwab “wrote the book” on 4IR and made it “a household phrase,” and telling Schwab that his work “has informed what we are doing.”

‘Get heavy with the police’ to enforce lockdowns

Many of the leaked messages pertain to the lockdowns themselves, revealing that Hancock and other cabinet members and advisers informally sought ways to garner support for such a measure — and often resorted to threats against the party’s own members and key scientists in order to ram through policies.

In March 2020, on the cusp of the U.K.’s first lockdown, Australian political strategist Isaac Levido met with Hancock and other members of the cabinet to discuss how to overcome opposition to lockdowns within the party’s ranks on the basis that they would be unpopular with the public.

In April 2020, Hancock and Dominic Cummings, adviser to then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, again raised the issue, with Hancock telling Cummings that other cabinet members should be informed that more than half of voters supported lockdowns or wanted even stricter measures.

According to The Telegraph, these conversations occurred even as the public was told “ministers insisted all decisions were taken according to the science and on the advice of England’s two most senior advisers, Prof Sir Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance,” adding that “it is unclear” which polls Hancock had been referring to.

Other messages revealed that Johnson wanted to end the first lockdown early, allowing dining to reopen ahead of the scheduled July 4, 2020, “freedom day,” but he was thwarted by two media strategists, Lee Cain and James Slack, with no scientific background. They said that this would be “too far ahead of public opinion.”

Hancock reinforced Cain and Slack’s position, telling Johnson the “R” (reproduction) rate of the COVID-19 virus “was very close to one,” adding that “it’s too soon for outdoor hospitality” and that “everyone’s accepted” schools would not reopen until September 2020.

This is reminiscent of February 2022 revelations that the Biden administration was relying on talking points from a prominent polling firm to develop COVID-19 policy.

Mask policy appeared to be based on similar considerations. On June 1, 2020, Cummings suggested introducing compulsory mask-wearing on public transport, as “It’s free, buys us some R, no real downside.” The policy was enacted three days later.

The leaks also revealed that in October 2020, Hancock and Baroness Dido Harding, the head of the U.K.’s Test and Trace program, sought to solidify government support for a second lockdown by developing a “do nothing death toll” — a projected number of COVID-19 deaths if the U.K. government took no measures.

Three weeks later, this resulted in modeling “projecting” 4,000 deaths. According to The Telegraph, this raises “questions about whether Mr Hancock was hoping to push the country into a second lockdown,” while Johnson himself, and other scientists, soon questioned the outdated data upon which the model — and lockdown — were based.

However, the messages also revealed that Johnson often fluctuated between lockdown “skeptic” and lockdown “zealot.” In June 2020, for instance, with the first lockdown ending, Johnson was already talking about the need for “some tough messaging [and] the protocols for going back into local and national lockdown.”

One month prior, Johnson told Hancock in a message that he was worried a drop in COVID-19 cases would increase public calls to end the lockdown.

And in January 2021, during the second lockdown and amid increasing pressure to loosen restrictions, Hancock sent a message to Michael Gove, one of Johnson’s cabinet members, saying “80% of the public support the lockdown — there is no public clamour to start lifting measures … They want us to keep people safe.”

Part of keeping people “safe” appears to have involved telling police to become more heavy-handed in enforcing restrictions.

The Telegraph reported that, despite police being operationally independent of government, Hancock told other cabinet members “to get heavy with the police” so that they would be stricter with the public.

Hancock and Case also expressed concerns that police were not cracking down hard enough on violations of lockdown and quarantine. In February 2020, Johnson told Hancock that a £10,000 fine imposed on two people who did not abide by mandatory quarantine after returning from Dubai was “superb.”

Over 118,000 fines were issued nationwide for various violations.

Power politics also were employed against other politicians. In November 2020, on the cusp of the U.K.’s second lockdown, Hancock told Department of Health and Social Care special adviser Allan Nixon to warn a Conservative member of parliament intending to vote against the lockdown that funding for a new center for disabled children in his district would be withdrawn if he did so.

Other leaked messages revealed Hancock demanded the expulsion of Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the SAGE committee and director of the Wellcome Trust, for being openly critical of government policies such as Test and Trace.

Hancock asked if Farrar “bring[s] any value at all to SAGE” and if the government “can fire him,” characterizing him as “worse than useless” and a “complete loudmouth.”

“The Lockdown Files” also revealed tensions between Hancock and then-chancellor Rishi Sunak, who expressed concerns about the heavy economic cost of lockdowns. In one message to advisers, Hancock asked, “What’s Rishi’s dilemma?” and accused him of “show[ing] ankle to the hard right.”

Hancock also ridiculed Sunak’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme to promote dining out as a means of aiding the restaurant industry, calling it “Eat out to help the virus get about.” At around this time, Hancock also forced through a change in the proposed contact tracing policy for restaurants, from customers “can” register to “should” register their details.

And on Dec. 18, 2020, with plans for the lockdown to be expanded past the holidays, Sunak suggested to Hancock that it should be ended by February, based on advice from SAGE.

But Hancock said, “This is not a SAGE call — it’s a political call,” telling Sunak that by February, only those in their late 70s and over will have been vaccinated.

Optics: social distancing, isolation, quarantine maintained despite the ‘science’

“The Lockdown Files” reveal that before the second U.K. lockdown, then-education secretary Sir Gavin Williamson was pressing to keep schools open, but Hancock fought to keep them shut.

Hancock described the proposal to keep schools open as “mad” and wrote that a “rearguard action” was needed to force them to close.

When Johnson initially agreed with Williamson, Hancock wrote, “The next U-turn is born,” indicating with certainty that he would be able to change the prime minister’s mind — as was the case. Hancock later boasted that Williamson was obliged to eat “humble pie.”

According to The Telegraph, this “was just one of a number of repeated instances where the interests of children were apparently disregarded in favour of restrictions,” while “Many of the measures went against the counsel of scientific advisers.”

And despite being told by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty that there were “no very strong reasons” for requiring school children to wear masks, Johnson opted for the advice of Cain and Case.

In light of Scotland imposing its own mask mandate for school students, Case told Johnson, “nervous parents will freak out” if the same wasn’t done in England.

Schools also maintained lateral flow tests for COVID-19 as the basis for keeping students in 10-day quarantine despite a reported high number of false positive results — often exceeding 50-60%, “The Lockdown Files” showed.

Hancock was warned of this “incredibly worrying” issue but opted against “unpicking” this policy. The government instead told the public the lateral flow tests were “99.9% accurate.”

The U.K. government also maintained “the rule of six,” which prevented gatherings of more than six people, despite knowing there was no “robust rationale” for it. Hancock was informed of this but replied that the government “[doesn’t] want to go there on this [and] also on curfew — they don’t want to shift an inch.”

This rule kept many families apart, according to The Telegraph.

Visitation to care homes was prohibited for months on end — even though Hancock was told that this measure was “inhumane” and that many elderly were “just giving up” due to their indefinite isolation.

Hancock, however, responded that he would consider loosening measures “only after a few weeks … Meanwhile we need to hit the end-of-month [vaccination] target.”

Isolation policies for care home staff who tested positive for COVID-19, which ranged from seven days to two weeks, also led to acute staffing shortages and some homes utilizing COVID-19-positive staff as a result. Messages showed Hancock was aware of this.

Messages also showed that Hancock and his advisers found it “hilarious” that travelers returning to England during this period were forced to quarantine in hotels. In one exchange, Case asked Hancock “how many people we locked up in hotels yesterday.”

Hancock replied “None. But 149 chose to enter the country and are now in Quarantine Hotels due to their own free will,” to which Case replied “Hilarious.”

Rules for thee but not for me

In late June 2021, photos and surveillance video revealed Hancock, who is married, and his aide, Gina Coladangelo, in an embrace in his ministerial office on May 4. Within 41 hours, he resigned.

However, during that period, Hancock fought hard to control the narrative and save his political career, seeking ways to deflect attention from any possible violations of his own government’s COVID-19 restrictions.

The messages revealed that Hancock did not know which of his own rules were in place on that date, telling an adviser to find out “what EXACTLY were the rules on 4 May.”

In another message, as Hancock sought out exemptions by which it would appear he did not violate restrictions on social distancing and gathering with individuals from other households, he wrote in all capital letters, “We didn’t break the f—— law OK.”

In January 2021, Hancock was photographed playing rugby with his son at a public park in London, after the government advised the public to “stay home” that weekend.

This was reminiscent of the case of SAGE scientist Neil Ferguson, whose modeling suggesting 250,000 people would die of COVID-19 without drastic measures, led the U.K. government to impose the first lockdown.

In May 2020, Ferguson resigned from his advisory position after it was revealed that he hosted his married lover in his home while restrictions on such gatherings were in place.

Despite such exceptions to the rules, Hancock and others went after prominent figures for similar alleged violations.

For instance, when outspoken pro-Brexit politician Nigel Farage was shown on video enjoying drinks at a pub immediately after his return from the U.S. — while a 14-day quarantine for those returning to the U.K. was still in place — Hancock intervened to try to get “pub hooligan” Farage “locked up,” messages revealed.

Public ‘absolutely cannot wait any longer for answers’

In response to the ongoing leaks of “The Lockdown Files,” Hancock said the messages are “doctored” and are being “spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda,” adding that what the messages show “is a lot of people working hard to save lives.”

Oakeshott responded by claiming Hancock threatened her. She also said the public “absolutely cannot wait any longer for answers” in light of the slow-moving official COVID-19 inquiry and the need to “avoid a whitewash” as part of this process.

Anyone who thinks I did this for money must be utterly insane,” she said.

The official COVID-19 inquiry has called for the messages to be submitted as evidence.

As of Monday, an online Telegraph poll showed 76% of the public support the release of “The Lockdown Files.”

Reader comments published by The Telegraph stated, “The main scandal is that we locked down at all” and “The messages show a blatant disregard for human quality of life.”

Hancock has been an embattled figure throughout the pandemic. In a June 2021 interview with LBC, Hancock admitted not knowing how many SAGE members there were — despite purportedly following their guidance.

He has also faced lawsuits from business figures who opposed lockdown policies and from Andrew Bridgen, a parliament member who openly questioned the COVID-19 vaccines in January, comparing the mass vaccination campaign to the Holocaust. Hancock responded by calling Bridgen “anti-Semitic.”

In May 2021, it was revealed that a pub owner near Hancock’s house won a $31.4 million contract to supply personal protective equipment — despite having no such experience — simply by messaging Hancock on WhatsApp.

Amid a wave of protests against COVID-19 measures in June 2021, demonstrators chanted “arrest Matt Hancock” and planned to gather outside his house.

Hancock’s resignation preempted the demonstration outside his home, according to London-based author and political analyst Evans Agelissopoulos, in remarks shared with The Defender.

In January, an “anti-vaxxer” heckler followed Hancock onto the London Tube and called him a “murdering scumbag.”

Hancock, who on Dec. 7, 2022, announced he will stand down from his parliamentary seat in the next elections, has established his own television company and recently participated in the “I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here” reality show.

Even there, Hancock could not escape criticism, as a COVID-19 activist group flew a banner over the location reading “COVID bereaved say get out of here.”

Source: Defender - Children's Health Defense


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