Well, one thing’s for sure, the Lockdown Files have exposed Matt Hancock’s incredibly poor judgement – not just over the government’s pandemic policies, but also over his choice of ghostwriter. 

Why on earth did he trust Isabel Oakeshott of all people – vocal lockdown sceptic and notorious mischief-maker – with hundreds of thousands of his confidential messages? 

Team Hancock and Team Oakeshott are battling it out as Britain contends with the biggest leak of data involving the government since the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandals, which “lays bare the extent to which groupthink…affected pandemic decisions.” The likes of Piers Morgan and Toby Young are commending Oakeshott for her public service, in passing on the former health secretary’s private WhatsApp messages to the Telegraph. Yet others have branded her a treacherous opportunist, criticising her decision to break a non-disclosure agreement she signed with Hancock. 

Perhaps the most puzzling question of all is not whether the leak is a noble act or shameful betrayal, but rather, how Hancock didn’t see this coming a mile off? 

“Marmite journalist” Oakeshott makes no secret of being an agitator. Indeed, the political commentator and International Editor of Talk TV is a self-professed “scoop getter and feather ruffler.” 

In 2015, she co-wrote a biography of David Cameron, Call Me Dave, with the Conservative donor and former member of the House of Lords, Lord Ashcroft which brought to light the humiliating (but unsubstantiated) claim that the then prime minister had engaged in sexual congress with a dead pig’s head at a decadent university party.

She also helped millionaire and Brexit campaigner Arron Banks write his account of the referendum campaign entitled The Bad Boys of Brexit, only to then later decide to publish Banks’ emails in The Times – emails she had gained access to at the time of writing the book (sound familiar?). 

In 2019, it was Oakeshott who got hold of Sir Kim Darroch’s emails in which the UK’s ambassador to the US had labelled the then-American President Donald Trump “inept.” The resulting uproar prompted Darroch to resign. Oakeshott denied that bringing this story to light had anything to do with her relationship with Brexit campaigner Richard Tice, who was rumoured to be keen to land the US ambassador job.

Oakeshott’s scoop-hungry track record aside, what makes Hancock’s decision all the more bizarre is that, over the past three years, she has also emerged as one of the most vocal critics of the government’s lockdown policies.

The firebrand journalist repeatedly labelled lockdown rules “insane”, insisting “we should never forget the appalling overreach of the state during Covid.”

This morning, BBC’s Nick Robinson grilled Oakeshott over her apparent hypocrisy in agreeing to co-author Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries, a book justifying the government’s Covid policy decisions, in the first place. 

“Why write a partial and selective record of Covid with Matt Hancock” only to then “breach his confidence, break a non disclosure record then write an account that contradicts the account you wrote in the first place?” Robinson asked her. 

In justifying her decision to work on the book, Oakeshott practically admitted she was doing it all along to land some big scoop. 

“Why? Because I wanted to get to the truth of it” she responded, adding: “My responsibility having finished that book with him is now to the public interest.

“This is about the millions of people that were adversely affected by the catastrophic decisions to lock down this country repeatedly often on the flimsiest of evidence, for political reasons.”

Notably, Oakeshott says she was not “not paid a penny” for her work helping Hancock write his diaries (but there’s no such thing as a free lunch Matt, you should know that.) 

As for how much the Telegraph has paid her now, Oakeshott refused to say, replying defensively: “Seriously, anyone who thinks I did this for money must be insane.”

Almost as insane as Matt Hancock, for thinking he could hire an unpaid ghostwriter – who publicly opposed virtually his entire policy platform when it came to lockdown – and not expect some trouble further down the line.

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