Isabel Oakeshott: the lesson of the Lockdown Files
The journalist explains how politicians got drunk on power during the pandemic
Over the last week, the Daily Telegraph has been publishing messages from a vast cache of WhatsApps between former health secretary Matt Hancock and his advisers. The messages reveal the true story behind the UK Government’s decisions throughout the Covid era. When viewed in their totality, the picture is one of spin above science and political ambition taking priority over public interest.
The messages were originally obtained by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who was given them by Matt Hancock under non-disclosure agreement. Oakeshott’s decision to leak the internal communications has put her at the centre of a media storm where she has been widely disparaged. But might the messages themselves give us an idea as to why so many mainstream outlets wouldn’t want the public to see them?
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Isabel Oakeshott joined UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers in the studio to find out.
On the polarised response to her story:
It depends on what side of the divide you sat on in terms of your response to the pandemic. So if you were sceptical about the Government’s response to the pandemic, you are absolutely delighted to see all this information that probably confirmed so many things that you already suspected about what was going on behind the scenes. If you are entrenched in your view that the only way to respond to the threat posed by this virus was to shut down society […] you’ve got a very vested interest in continuing to argue that you must have been right and these messages don’t tell us anything that much new.
On public support of lockdowns during the pandemic:
The government seemed to be trapped in a kind of doom loop in which they terrified the population, then polled the population to see if measures that they presented as being ‘to protect’ the population were popular. And hey presto, yes, those measures were popular, because people were terrified. And accordingly, their opinion ratings or approval ratings went up. And so this became a kind of ever-reinforcing circle.
On the vilification of the Great Barrington Declaration signatories:
Those scientists and other experts suffered such reputational damage, they were smeared. There was a real operation to discredit those people and to present them as cranks, to say that there was something wrong with them. And also to impugn their motives.
On the tone of the messages between ministers:
They drank their own Kool Aid. They began to think it was funny to lock people up and to use the powers of the state to force people into tiny hotel rooms and to gleefully observe. […] Pretty distasteful, isn’t it, to see the machinery of government and the key operators in it enjoying their power so much.
On her working relationship with Matt Hancock:
I think that there were advantages for him in the relationship. I am good at what I do, he got a fantastic book out of it. […] He could not possibly have written that book by himself or anything like it by himself. So it was a transactional arrangement, in his mind.
On revelations about the UK vaccine rollout:
There was a continuing tension between Matt Hancock and his medical and scientific advisors over what pace they could go at. Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance were always very clear that no corners could be cut. They kept hammering home that message. But Matt always wanted to push further and faster: he would have seen that as his job and his responsibility. He just wanted to accelerate everything. I think he felt that if there were some unfortunate consequences of that for a very small number of people, then that was a price worth paying for the much greater good.
Thanks to Isabel for joining us in the UnHerd studio.
Matt Hancock got a First in PPE from Oxford. He is clearly not a very nice man. But reading those texts, and observing him in action, he is clearly also not a very smart man. Something very weird is happening when so many of the decision making cadre of the British state are in possession of a PPE from Oxford, which cannot demand very exacting standards.
What is a PPE?
Politics, philosophy, and economics. It’s a common degree for Oxford graduates who’re aiming for a political career.
Lockdown PPE is something altogether different of course.
It’s not possible Hancock thought he had expertise in protective gowns, is it?
Basically “General Studies”, a cocktail degree ideal for ephemeral ‘chit chat’ at London political soirées, but otherwise WORTHLESS.
Gladstone and Peel had Double Firsts in Greats and Maths which shows the decline in education standards of politicians.
He is also an accomplished amateur jockey! So not a ‘ complete waste of rations’.
My understanding, having spoken to people who attended Oxford, is PPE is seen as a bluffer’s degree. In four years they try to teach three degree subjects, having only brush contact with each. The graduates who come out the other end seem to think they’re an expert on them all, not someone who did an abbreviated Cook’s tour. Look at David Cameron – clearly a bright person but hardly a deep or original thinker. Classic PPE fodder.
A good point. I think “smart” has various manifestations. From other interviews Isabel commented that Hancock was hardworking and ambitious. So, I would say that he was a smart and clever man but not a wise one.
I read an article elsewhere that referred to Covid as ‘farce’. Something that has become clearer more recently.
Wikipedia: Farce is a comedy that seeks to entertain an audience through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant, ridiculous, absurd, and improbable.
And on the stage, actors running about with no trousers on.
In my opinion Matt Hancock seems well qualified for a role in such a production.
After WWII they shot Lord Haw-Haw. In a just world they would hold a Nurnmerg Trials thing – and shoot thousands of the ones who caused this suffering, death, and economic destruction after a legal trial….. They comitted a ‘Crime Against Humanity’ and ‘Crime Against Country’ and every one of them needs their turn at Tyburn Dock for the Traitor’s Just Deserts.
They hanged him at Wandsworth prison, sorry to be a pedant. There’s still some controversy over the legality, as he was technically a US citizen.
Otherwise they would have hanged his Mrs, who WAS, unlike him, a British citizen.
Oakeshott has to be wholeheartedly congratulated for exposing the Hancock Whatsapp messages. A very brave lady indeed. I wish something equivalent would happen in the US. Unfortunately, the corresponding information is on Government emails and even if requested by FOIA will be subject to huge redactions (i.e. everything backed out!).
I wonder what Hancock thought he was getting into when he hired Oakeshott. She is a certain type of journalist, with a history that suggests she might not be entirely principled, or that she might be a muckraker. Did he fully trust her?
Is there any way that Hancock might benefit from Oakeshott’s revelations? Will the publicity boost sales of his book? It appears he will leave politics at the next election. Is he trying to raise his public profile before entering the private sector or seeking a senior position at an NGO (if nothing else, Oakeshott’s revelations show Hancock fully supported the globalist lockdown/vaccine response to the pandemic).
The world of politics is such a strange place, and the old saying that all publicity is good publicity seems to apply. I can’t help feeling Hancock isn’t the dupe he appears to be.
“I wonder what Hancock thought he was getting into when he hired Oakeshott”
Perhaps a bit of bottom squeezing?
Highly likely, I imagine that’s her ‘Nuclear Option’ on him!
You’re onto something here, but think a little deeper and with more cynicism. Start from the perspective that they’re all in the same club, that they truly hate the rest of us, that almost every far-fetched “conspiracy” around events we’ve experienced over the past three years has been revealed to be true, and you might find some answers. I just hope we are not assuming we can rely on the authenticity of these messages in a criminal trial. It would be a real blow to proceedings if it was suddenly *revealed* that they were fabricated…
I don’t understand her position, she says lockdown caused great harm in a number of areas, clearly didn’t work, that the people behind it incited fear in the population and were drunk on power…..BUT it was still the “right” thing to do and she still supports said policy. This is why they will try it again.
Many thanks to Isabel Oakeshott for, presumably, following her conscience and boldly releasing Hancock’s can of worms.
It feels comparable to the release of the Watergate tapes, though I fear it will, sadly, not have the same impact, due to the wilful blindness of the majority, who having followed The Narrative, now will avert their eyes from the naked truth before them.
Thanks must also go those behind the installation of the camera in our former Health Secretary’s office. But for this fortuitous revelation it is not inconceivable that this self-serving tinpot tyrant could still have been lording it over us all.
It could have been worse. Don’t forget he was in the party leadership contest after May went. Fortunately we got Boris instead!
That was very interesting. Thanks.
Once again, i think we have to consider the attitude of the media in all this. Hancock found himself in a role which made demands upon him he was unable to cope with. What do human beings do in such a situation? They become defensive (self-preservation); they go into denial. They may exhibit unusual behaviour. Matt Hancock will be studied by psychologists for decades to come.
The media had an agenda in early 2020 on the back of Brexit. Daily press conferences, where he fronted up during the period of his PM being hospitalised, took an extreme toll on him. But does this mean i feel sorry for him? Not in the least. As others have pointed out, he chose to become a career politician.
In reaching out to Isabel Oakeshott, he possibly thought he had someone who might be sympathetic to him. She, in turn, is a career journalist, albeit one with unusual insight and intelligence.
I can’t really say that either come out of this with any credit. Who’d choose to be in the public spotlight under such circumstances? If the skin of a rhino were required, perhaps we should consider whether both politicians and journalists with integrity aren’t just an endangered species, but extinct.
The job of a leader is to lead, not bend and buck under influences from others. Hancock was a failure and should not be rewarded just because they’re all useless.
You mean rather like Boris bestowing a Knighthood on his morally degenerate wife beating father?
Are you suggesting that’s what i’ve implied?
See also Steve M’s comment. Just wondering – Did BoJo buckle and take to his bed or did he really have ‘Chinese’ Flu? Hancock ……should not be rewarded.No! he shoud be put on trial for his misdeeds against ‘the people’.
That might be what an ideal leader should be, but the reality of our system is that the leaders we get are mostly of a far different kind. The kind we tend to produce at present are by and large followers of the path of least resistance, elected not because of their strength or quality of character, but because they have the capacity to be chameleon-like conmen (and women) who can convince the general public that they will heed their needs and desires, yet who are in reality compliant to the whims of corporations and super wealthy ideologues.
You hit the nail right on the head
Society has changed. The days when leaders were tempered by adversity undertaking jobs where mistakes killed are long gone. Working in mines, sailing ships, constructions sites, oil rigs and combat where one had to make life or death decisions perhaps with no sleep for over 24 hours, are long gone.
When one looks at Air Chief Marshall Dowding, Head of Fighter Command, here was a leader who designed the air defence systems of the UK; never made a wrong decision in the three months of the Battle of Britain and then on the 15 th September had the responsibility of being the only person who could have lost the war in thirteen hours. The reality is that Britain and The West do not want leaders of the calibre of Dowding because the shows up lesser people. Since 1945 there has been the relentless promotion of an effete impractical ineffectual cleresy who lack spirit are spiteful and malicious towards those of the calibre of Dowding. Covid, Grenfell or the employment of people like Couzens(meant to be highly skilled and honest) demonstrate the results of the inadequate being in positions of power.
And as soon as the Battle of Britain was won Dowding was fired and (Big Wing) Douglas and Mallory replaced him – although they would have lost the Battle of Britain.
I have toured the RAF Uxbridge bunker two times – if you can, it is a must see if you are a patriot.
Thank you for suggestion. Churchill made a few mistakes in WW2, sacking Dowding and Vernon Knell come to mind.
Vernon Kell – Wikipedia
One thing I would like to know is what other nations Hancock was conniving with. Was Klaus Schwab or Dr. Fauci involved in any of the WhatsApp messages? Would be nice to know.
The visibility of the messages is a public service, even though Oakenshott will have had less benevolent reasons for doing this too. It pulls back the veil on a chaotic Govt led by a chaotic leader. One wonders if she/Telegraph are being selective too in what’s published. True public service would be the lot are freely shared with other media outlets, but hey that’d mean missing out on the financial benefits.
More broadly we know Oakenshott an anti-Lockdown believer. And certainly we have much to reflect and learn from. But one thing noticeable – a failure to distinguish between the drivers of Lockdown 1 and subsequent Lockdowns. Our knowledge and prep time were v different. Over simplification not going to help us learn.
Finally on the use of ‘fear’ to gain public compliance – one suspects Oakenshott and her ‘similars’ do not object, and in fact extol, incendiary fear-fuelled language, such as Braverman deploys, on immigration and asylum. Don’t claim the high ground unless you are consistent. She is though, one understands the partner of leader of Reform so will be rattling around an echo chamber of fear laden tosh a lot of the time.
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