Isabel Oakeshott has hit the headlines after she leaked around 100,000 messages from the phone of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, with some stemming from the height of the pandemic.
In the messages, Hancock allegedly refused to follow scientific advice over the testing of Covid patients before they were place in care homes at the start of the pandemic. The former health secretary has vehemently denied the claims and is said to be considering legal action against his previous collaborator.
The messages were handed to Oakeshott as part of her preparation for authoring ‘Pandemic Dairies: The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle Against Covid’, a book which was ghostwritten with Hancock. However, the journalist has now passed these messages onto The Telegraph amid the ongoing Covid inquiry.
Oakeshott has become a prominent - and controversial - name within the political reporting world in recent years. The right-wing journalist and political commentator is no stranger to being in the middle of political scandals herself. Here’s everything you need to know about her career to date.
Who is Isabel Oakeshott?
Oakeshott, 48, was born in Westminster, London, and attended prestigious private schools, St George’s School and Gordonstoun School, in Scotland. It was in Scotland that she began her career in journalism, writing for outlets such as the East Lothian Courier and the Edinburgh Evening News.
She joined the Evening Standard in London as a health correspondent before moving to The Sunday Times in 2006. During her time at the paper she moved from deputy political editor to political editor before leaving in 2014.
From 2016 until 2017, Oakeshott was the Daily Mail’s political editor-at-large. It was around this period that the right-leaning reporter started to become a recognisable face on political panel shows such as Question Time and BBC’s Daily Politics.
In October 2021, Oakeshott was unveiled as the newest team member of GB News. She presented ‘The Briefing with Isabel Oakeshott’ on a Friday afternoon as part of the network’s daily programming before leaving the station in March 2022.
Currently, Oakeshott can be seen on TalkTV. She works as international editor for the channel and regularly appears as a commentator and panellist on many shows.
Which stories was Isabel Oakeshott involved in?
Throughout her career, Oakeshott has been at the centre of some high-profile political stories. The latest comes in the new accusation that Hancock ignored advice around testing patients for Covid before placing them into care homes at the start of the pandemic, as allegedly seen in messages given by her to The Telegraph.
In 2013, while she worked as the political editor for The Sunday Times, she spoke with Vicky Pryce, the then-wife of Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne. Pryce told Oakeshott that she and her estranged husband had perverted the course of justice after Pryce took responsibility for a driving offence which had actually been committed by Huhne in 2003.
However, Oakeshott was criticised for her handling of the story, having told Pryce early in their correspondence that the chances of her being prosecuted were low, despite the risk that she could well face criminal punishment for her part in the event. After the story was published by The Sunday Times, Pryce and Huhne were both convicted and sentenced to eight months in jail while Oakeshott defended her position, telling the BBC: “It’s not my job to provide expert criminal advice.”
In 2019, she wrote a series of articles for The Mail on Sunday in which she detailed leaked diplomatic emails written by the former British ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, in which Darroch criticised the Trump administration. He resigned from the post shortly after the memos were leaked.
Throughout her career, Oakeshott has also written several political books. Before ‘Pandemic Diaries’, her most notable publication was ‘Call Me Dave’, an unauthorised biography of David Cameron co-written with Michael Ashcroft.
It was in this biography that revelations were made public about the former Tory leader’s time at university. Controversy surrounded the allegation that Cameron had performed a sex act with a dead pig in his university years, which the former PM denied, with Oakeshott later saying that she believed her source could have been “deranged”.
What is Isabel Oakeshott’s stance on Covid and lockdown?
Oakeshott became one of the prominent voices in the anti-lockdown movement during the Covid pandemic. She gained popularity in some circles for her anti-lockdown stance, as well as her criticism of Covid measures such as mask-wearing.
She has regularly spoken about her opposition to the mandatory lockdowns, which she described as an “unmitigated disaster”. She also described masks as “political” in March 2022.
Oakeshott said: “Unless you happen to work in a hospital or a laboratory they’re frankly nothing to do with medicine or genuine infection control. They are completely unnecessary symbols of fear and repression.”
Having obtained Hancock’s personal WhatsApp messages after ghostwriting the ‘Pandemic Diaries’ with the former health secretary, Oakeshott claimed she handed the treasure trove of evidence to The Telegraph because of her concern the Covid inquiry could take “many years” and could involved a “colossal whitewash”.
She added that the release of the messages was in the public’s interest, saying: “We absolutely cannot wait any longer for answers.”