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How Helen Whately and Matt Hancock joked about celebrating Piers Morgan’s GMB departure

‘Piers Morgan is leaving GMB – shall we celebrate?’ How Helen Whately and Matt Hancock joked about toasting TV host’s departure after health minister’s disastrous clash with presenter on Covid care home deaths

  • Minister discussed celebrating Piers Morgan GMB departure with Matt Hancock
  • Mr Hancock replied ‘perfect’ in message, which is one of the latest to be released

No10’s social care minister joked about celebrating Piers Morgan‘s departure from Good Morning Britain following a disastrous interview with the host.

Helen Whately asked ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock whether they should toast him leaving the ITV show in March 2021.

Mr Hancock replied ‘perfect’ to the message, released from the trove of more than 100,000 WhatsApps passed to The Telegraph by journalist Isabel Oakeshott.

The comments came after Ms Whately’s notorious run-in with Piers one year earlier, when he blasted her for sniggering as he asked about the death toll in England’s care homes during the early days of the Covid pandemic.

Helen Whately asked former Health Secretary Matt Hancock whether they should toast him leaving the ITV show at or after a meeting they had in March 2021. Pictured: Piers Morgan storming off GMB after furious row with weatherman Alex Beresford over Meghan Markle

Helen Whately asked former Health Secretary Matt Hancock whether they should toast him leaving the ITV show at or after a meeting they had in March 2021. Pictured: Piers Morgan storming off GMB after furious row with weatherman Alex Beresford over Meghan Markle

The comments came after Ms Whately's notorious run-in with Piers one year earlier (pictured), when he blasted her for sniggering as he asked about the death toll in England's care homes during the early days of the Covid pandemic

The comments came after Ms Whately’s notorious run-in with Piers one year earlier, when he blasted her for sniggering as he asked about the death toll in England’s care homes during the early days of the Covid pandemic

In a message to Mr Hancock on March 9 2021, Ms Whately said: 'How about we celebrate the departure of Piers at/after our team meeting tmr pm? Just a thought.' The former Health Secretary replied: 'Perfect'

In a message to Mr Hancock on March 9 2021, Ms Whately said: ‘How about we celebrate the departure of Piers at/after our team meeting tmr pm? Just a thought.’ The former Health Secretary replied: ‘Perfect’

In a message to Mr Hancock on March 9 2021, Ms Whately said: ‘How about we celebrate the departure of Piers at/after our team meeting tmr pm? Just a thought.’

The former Health Secretary replied: ‘Perfect’. 

This is despite the UK being in its third lockdown, during which social gatherings indoors were illegal.

The Telegraph reported that the messages, which MailOnline has not seen or independently verified, do not indicate whether plans were actually made. 

But a Government spokesperson said there was ‘no celebration’ and Ms Whately’s comments were ‘a joke’.

It came after Piers sensationally quit the show, which he co-hosted with Susanna Reid, that day.

That came after he said he ‘didn’t believe a word’ Meghan Markle said during her blockbuster interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which she detailed her mental health struggles.

The day after he made the comments, the 57-year-old stormed out of the studio after being challenged by weatherman Alex Beresford, who said Piers ‘continued to trash’ Meghan even though she has not spoken about him.

Piers’ comments prompted around 60,000 complaints to Ofcom. 

But the media watchdog ruled that his criticism, which included referring to Meghan as ‘Princess Pinocchio’, did not breach the broadcasting code.

Around a year before he walked out on the show, which saw record ratings during Piers’ time there, he had a run in with Ms Whately.

He asked the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent whether it was true that 4,000 people had died in care homes due to the virus.

The Daily Mail exclusive warned that there was a ‘hidden epidemic’ of Covid deaths in care homes due to a lack of tests to confirm the fatalities were down to the virus.

He asked: ‘Is it true that 4,000 people have died in care home? Yes or no?’ 

The Social Care Minister then thanked him for acknowledging what the Government is doing and said the work was ‘really important’.

Piers interrupted to say it was more important that 4,000 people died and that he was showing viewers The Daily Mail front page, only for the Minister to start laughing. 

The host said: ‘I don’t know whey you’re laughing. Why are you laughing? I’m telling you what it is, it’s actually very serious. 

‘It says 4,000 people may have died in care homes in this country. My point to you is why are you only now doing all this testing?’

Ms Whately responded: ‘I’m sorry. My reaction just then was because you said you’d show me something. I’ve been asked to set up the camera so I’m looking into it so I can’t see what you are holding up.’

Piers continued to press Ms Whately on whether the statistic was true and asked her why she was laughing.

Additional WhatsApp messages between Mr Hancock and his team on May 3 2020 show Mr Hancock deliberating what to say to Piers after he revealed that he had mild Covid symptoms and would not be appearing on GMB until his results came back.

In a group chat with aides, Mr Hancock shared a link to the tweet and said: ‘Tempting as it is I probably shouldn’t comment on this, but a few colleagues pointing out kindly that he can only have a test because of the ramp up of testing in the past week would be good’.

The former Health Secretary was advised to ‘tweet him best wishes’ and ‘be really classy’ to then ‘get others to point out how classy you are being’.

After deliberating in the group chat, Mr Hancock eventually tweeted: ‘Sorry to see Piers Morgan has symptoms of coronavirus. If you test positive, I sincerely hope it’s mild. Get well soon.’

KEY CLAIMS OF THE LOCKDOWN FILES INVESTIGATION 

A fresh cache of 100,000 text and WhatsApp messages leaked to the Daily Telegraph by the ex-journalist who ghost-wrote Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries claimed:

  • Matt Hancock rejected the Chief Medical Officer’s call to test all residents going into English care homes for Covid
  • A minister in Mr Hancock’s department said restrictions on visitors to care homes were ‘inhumane’, but residents remained isolated many months on
  • Mr Hancock’s adviser arranged for a personal test to be couriered for Jacob Rees-Mogg’s child at a time of national shortage
  • Mr Hancock told former chancellor George Osborne, then editor of the Evening Standard, ‘I WANT TO HIT MY TARGET!’ as he pushed for favourable front-page coverage
  • Mr Hancock allegedly met his 100,000-tests-a-day target by counting kits that were despatched before the deadline but might never be processed 
  • Social care minister Helen Whately told Mr Hancock the testing system was ‘definitely working’ after she managed to secure a test ‘just’ 50 miles from where she lived. 
  • Mr Osborne warned Mr Hancock that ‘no one thinks testing is going well’ in late 2020 
  • The then prime minister, Boris Johnson, revealed he was going ‘quietly crackers’ about the UK’s shortage of test kits
  • Face masks were introduced in school hallways and communal areas after the PM was told it would avoid an ‘argument’ with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon 
  • Matt Hancock took ‘rearguard’ action to close schools after former education secretary Sir Gavin Williamson persuaded the PM to keep them open in January 2021
  • Sir Gavin said teachers were looking for an ‘excuse’ not to work during the pandemic
  • Ministers said there was ‘no robust rationale’ for imposing the ‘rule of six’ on children, but did it anyway
  • Pupils with false positive results on a lateral flow test had to isolate at home for ten days, even when they tested negative on a PCR, to avoid ‘unpicking’ the policy
  • The PM feared that he ‘blinked too soon’ in plunging the UK into a second Covid lockdown after being warned that gloomy modelling which bounced him into the move was ‘very wrong’
  • Mr Johnson was eager to ease curbs on retail, hospitality and gatherings in June 2020 but was told he was ‘too far ahead of public opinion’
  • Mr Hancock and top civil servant Simon Case joked about travellers ‘locked up’ in quarantine hotels during Covid lockdown
  • The minister said the Government should ‘get heavy with the police’ to help crack down on Covid lockdown rulebreakers
  • Mr Hancock’s team asked if they could ‘lock up’ Nigel Farage after he posted a video of himself in a pub when they suspected he was in breach of rules

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