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Covid: Your tax dollars at work
A huge leak of internal messages from 2020 and 2021 from top British officials reveals our (okay, their, in this case) fearless leaders were as clueless as they seemed, especially about vaccines
Somewhere, Winston Churchill just threw up.
A week ago, the British newspaper The Telegraph started publishing secret text messages among government ministers about Britain’s response to Covid.
The good news is they don’t reveal a high-level government conspiracy to use Covid to install Bill Gates as Emperor of the Universe.
The bad news is… everything else.
Fearless leadership is no longer in style on either side of the Atlantic.
Try bad math, power grabs, and efforts to frighten the public (while simultaneously leading from the rear) instead.
Worst of all, the messages reveal that Britain’s then-health minister, Matt Hancock, fell completely for the Covid vaccines once the initial clinical trial results came out. When it came to the jabs, his main concern was getting as much airtime as possible to brag about them so he would “own the exit.”
How’d that work out for you, Matt?
(STOP LAUGHING AND SUBSCRIBE! I’M ORDERING YOU!)
The messages, which the Telegraph calls the Lockdown Files, belonged to the former British health minister, one Matthew John David Hancock. Matt has lately made a series of unfortunate life decisions. In June 2021, he was forced to resign after being caught on camera kissing his top aide, Gina Coladangelo.
Yes, Gina served him in a variety of positions! (I’ll never get tired of that joke…)
Anyhoo, Matt separated from his wife and went on a British reality television show called “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!” He was paid $400,000 for the appearance, but he didn’t do it for the money. He donated his fee to charity.
Correction: he donated 3 percent of his fee to charity.
Matt’s next big move was a book called “Pandemic Diaries: The inside story of Britain’s battle against Covid,” which came out two months ago. Demand for Matt’s insights is… not great. As of this Tuesday morning, the book ranks 662,289th in the Kindle store.
(Matt Hancock: forthcoming vision, receding hairline!)
Along the way Matt accidentally gave the world a peek at the real inside story of Britain’s battle against Covid.
For reasons only Hancock knows, he hired a British journalist named Isabel Oakeshott to ghostwrite the “Pandemic Diaries.”
As a charter member of Team Reality, Oakeshott was not an obvious choice to write a self-serving memoir for Hancock, who was instrumentally involved in Britain’s repeated lockdowns. (Maybe he was too busy figuring out what charity would get 3 percent of his reality television payday to Google her background?)
Matt made Oakeshott sign an non-disclosure agreement, then let her poke through his database of 100,000 WhatsApp messages.
(Side note: 100,000 messages? Matt resigned as health minister in June 2021, roughly 500 days into Covid. That’s 200 messages a day, through ONE texting channel. The top of the British government is indistinguishable from a group of eighth-grade girls.)
Oakeshott (correctly) decided that the public interest in seeing the British government’s internal deliberations outweighed her NDA, and now the WhatsApp chickens have come home to roost.
For the last week, the Telegraph has gleefully published highlights from the messages. Sadly but not surprisingly, they reveal the fundamental incoherence of the British government’s Covid response.
We’ve seen the outlines of the story from the outside. The texts confirm what we knew: a burst of panic that began in February 2020 and accelerated into March led officials to throw out their plans for a carefully calibrated response to respiratory virus epidemics.
Instead, they flipped to a hard lockdown strategy.
By the time they realized Covid was little more than a midrange flu for most people under 70, and even less for those under 40, it was too late. They had panicked the public and put themselves in a position where most voters and essentially the entire media judged them only on the number of Covid infections and deaths reportded every day.
But easing lockdowns would sooner or later (probably sooner) lead to increases in Covid cases and deaths, causing public anxiety to spike. This dynamic was visible as early as June 2020, when British prime minister Boris Johnson said he was thinking about easing lockdown restrictions quickly, only to be told he was “too far ahead of public opinion.”
But after Nov. 9, when Pfizer reported its apparent miracle - 90 percent vaccine protection - they knew their best strategy was to keep the public frightened until they could distribute the jabs and take the credit:
On December 13, 2020, Hancock laid out this strategy explicitly. The text that has received the most attention is the one where he wrote he wanted to “frighten the pants of[f] everyone with the new strain”:
But an arguably even more important text came a few minutes later, when Hancock’s media advisor Damon Poole suggested that being too negative about the risks of a new Covid variant would undermine confidence in the new jabs.
“That’s why we reassure on the vaccine,” Hancock responded.
Reassure they did. Matt and his advisors might not have known much about mRNA, or LNP, or clinical trial design, but they knew the vaccines were the ticket out of the mess they’d made. Fear of the virus and the promise of the jabs were two sides of the same coin.
Never fear. Matt kept riding it through:
Always nice to see a leader who can multi-task!