Matt Hancock is 'two-faced' and 'was like a headless chicken' during COVID vaccine drive
Matt Hancock has been branded "two-faced" and compared to a "headless chicken" by the former boss of the COVID vaccines taskforce.
Dr Clive Dix said the outgoing Tory MP, who resigned as health secretary after being caught breaking social distancing rules to pursue an affair with an aide, was "the most difficult of all the ministers".
"He didn't take time to understand anything," he said of Mr Hancock, in an article for The Daily Telegraph.
"He was all over the place, a bit like a headless chicken."
Dr Dix is especially critical of Mr Hancock's desire to set public targets, including driving the goal of vaccinating the entire population against the virus.
The damning assessment of the ex-minister's conduct during the pandemic comes as more of his leaked WhatsApp messages from the height of the outbreak emerge.
Earlier, the messages revealed Mr Hancock took Gina Coladangelo, who he was having an affair with, to private dinners with the US health secretary then altered a ministerial response to remove suggestions he invited her.
Some of the latest texts to be published in the Telegraph show Mr Hancock made a series of negative comments about senior figures who worked on the vaccine rollout.
Exchanges from October 2020 show him describing vaccines tsar Dame Kate Bingham as "totally unreliable".
Mr Hancock said she has a "wacky way" of expressing her views, after a Financial Times interview in which she recommended the UK should only vaccinate "everyone at risk" rather than the whole population.
He complained about Dame Kate again in February 2021, as well as Dr Dix, amid concerns over the UK's access to vaccines from India as a backup to jabs from AstraZeneca, which was experiencing manufacturing problems.
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Dr Dix, who became deputy chair of the vaccine taskforce in June 2020 and interim chair at the end of 2020, said it showed the West Suffolk MP was "panicking".
The UK did procure jabs from India in 2021, which Dr Dix said "had been meant for the developing world".
A spokesman for Dame Kate told the Telegraph that the messages suggested Mr Hancock "was not aware of the published and agreed government vaccine procurement policy".
He also seemingly "did not read the reports by and about the work of the Vaccine Taskforce".
Leaked messages show Hancock's reaction to filmed 'snog'
'He was a loose cannon'
In his article for the Telegraph, Dr Dix said Mr Hancock's leaked WhatsApp messages - shared with the newspaper by journalist Isabel Oakeshott - were "two-faced".
"We were working as hard as we could, and he thought he could just come in and make a bold statement to the public and tell us that we have got to do it," he said.
"I don't think he understood the process. He was a loose cannon."
How have Hancock's WhatsApps been leaked - and what is an NDA?
Hancock fought 'resistance in the system'
Mr Hancock has dismissed the Telegraph's reporting, with a spokesperson labelling the stories as "wrong".
"Matt drove the goal of getting everyone vaccinated, often against resistance in the system," they said.
Meanwhile, earlier, former chancellor George Osborne, defended the former health secretary as one of the "sensible" ministers during the pandemic.
The former Conservative MP, who crops up in the leaked messages offering advice and support to Mr Hancock amid the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, told Channel 4's The Andrew Neil Show, the ex-health secretary was a "rational" voice in government.
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Mr Osborne said: "This is not a fashionable view at the moment - but Matt was one of the sensible people in the room in a supreme crisis for the British state and indeed lots of other countries around the world."
Mr Hancock's account of the UK's response to the pandemic is outlined in his memoir, The Pandemic Diaries, which was co-authored by Ms Oakeshott.
Mr Hancock shared the WhatsApp messages with her as they worked on the book.
Ms Oakeshott says she leaked them as it was in the "public interest".