The U.K.’s Telegraph has obtained more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages that circulated among government officials, cabinet members and others over the course of Britain’s covid shutdowns. They are being referred to as the “Lockdown Files,” and have created a stir analogous to Elon Musk’s release of the Twitter files here in the U.S.
The Telegraph summarizes some of the WhatsApp content:
[Secretary of State for Health and Social Care] Matt Hancock wanted to “deploy” a new Covid variant to “frighten the pants off” the public and ensure they complied with lockdown, leaked messages seen by The Telegraph have revealed.
In a WhatsApp conversation on Dec 13, obtained by The Telegraph, Damon Poole – one of Mr Hancock’s media advisers – informed his boss that Tory MPs were “furious already about the prospect” of stricter Covid measures and suggested “we can roll pitch with the new strain”.
The comment suggested that they believed the strain could be helpful in preparing the ground for a future lockdown and tougher restrictions in the run-up to Christmas 2020.
Mr Hancock then replied: “We frighten the pants off everyone with the new strain.”
Mr Poole agreed, saying: “Yep that’s what will get proper bahviour [sic] change.”
Mr Hancock expressed his worry that talks over Brexit would dominate headlines and reduce the impact, and probed Mr Poole for his media advice. “When do we deploy the new variant,” asked Mr Hancock.
Remember this meme? Is it humor, or is it history?
Just as many U.S. liberals have attacked Elon Musk for releasing the Twitter files, many journalists in the U.K. have criticized the Telegraph and reporter Isabel Oakeshott:
The Lockdown Files have been full of extraordinary revelations, but perhaps the most extraordinary of all has been the news that some journalists believe that we should never be allowed to know the real truth about how lockdowns, mask mandates and vaccine passports were imposed on our nation.
Since The Telegraph splashed the first stories gleaned from Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages, the focus of many journalists, in print and on air, has been not on the story but the story-getter.
It is a weird aspect of our present historical moment: journalists hate journalism.
What those WhatsApp messages reveal is that, when the Government imposed lockdowns, school closures, masks and cruel policies separating families, they did not – as so many of these journalists have insisted – “follow the science”.
Far from it.
No journalist worth their salt could possibly question the validity of the public interest defence for Isabel Oakeshott to reveal the truth behind the most extraordinary, damaging and costly government policies in living memory.
Unless, of course, that truth collided head-on with their own deeply held conviction that lockdowns, school closures, mask mandates and vaccine passports were all sound policies based on incontrovertible scientific fact and vital to save hundreds of thousands of lives during a deadly pandemic.
How could they – the guardians of the truth – ever bring themselves to admit that they were wrong about lockdown?
How could they (the proudly mask-donning, patiently queuing two metres apart outside Waitrose, working-from-home, “nice” people – as opposed to the Covid denying, anti-vaxxing granny killers that they falsely and laughably brand people like Oakeshott and me [Julia Hartley-Brewer] to be ever come to terms with being on the wrong side of history?
I don’t expect there will ever be a full accounting for governments’ disastrous responses to the covid virus, but the release of the Lockdown Files is a good start.