The government has spent months battling to keep Matt Hancock’s official pandemic diary secret – despite the former health secretary publishing a personal memoir about the period that critics say amounts to rewriting history.
Families who lost loved ones during the pandemic call the refusal to release Hancock’s official ministerial diaries “as disgraceful as it is farcical”. Hancock, who recently lost the Tory whip for appearing on ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’, released his book ‘Pandemic Diaries: The Inside Story of Britain's Battle Against Covid’ this week.
openDemocracy has fought for the release of Hancock’s official diaries for more than a year. The documents could reveal who the MP was meeting while deciding health policy and handing out million-pound PPE contracts.
But the Department of Health and Social Care has repeatedly rejected the request, calling it vexatious, despite commitments from ministers at the time for “transparency”.
The Covid-19 public inquiry is a historic chance to find out what really happened.
"Matt Hancock releasing a book called ‘Pandemic Diaries’ whilst refusing to release his official diaries is as disgraceful as it is farcical,” said Lobby Akinnola, a spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice. “Having overseen the deaths of 150,000 British citizens and been fired for breaking his own lockdown rules, he’s now being paid huge sums of money to appear on reality TV shows and is desperately using his book to try and rewrite history.
On Wednesday, Hancock announced he will not stand as a Conservative MP in the next election, saying that he has "discovered a whole new world of possibilities" that he is "excited to explore". The news comes just over a week after the MP left the jungle in reality TV show, I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!.
“The families like mine that he’s ripped apart are left unable to get the answers we need to try and move forward with our lives," added Akinnola. "Whilst Matt Hancock gets a megaphone, his victims are silenced.”
Tory peer Baroness Mone took a leave of absence from the House of Lords on Tuesday after reportedly receiving millions in profit from a PPE contract she is said to have lobbied ministers, including Hancock, who called her approaches “aggressive” in his book. Mone has said she did nothing wrong and denies having any relationship with the company PPE Medpro.
From coronation budgets to secretive government units, journalists have used the Freedom of Information Act to expose corruption and incompetence in high places. Tony Blair regrets ever giving us this right. Today's UK government is giving fewer and fewer transparency responses, and doing it more slowly. But would better transparency give us better government? And how can we get it?
Join our experts for a free live discussion at 5pm UK time on 15 June.
Claire Miller Data journalism and FOI expert Martin Rosenbaum Author of ‘Freedom of Information: A Practical Guidebook’; former BBC political journalist Jenna Corderoy Investigative reporter at openDemocracy and visiting lecturer at City University, London Chair: Ramzy Alwakeel Head of news at openDemocracy
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