FORMER Tory chancellor George Osborne said he would sort a favourable front page story for Matt Hancock after the then health secretary contacted him personally, leaked WhatsApp messages have revealed.

Osborne, who previously served as editor of the Evening Standard, received a message from Hancock asking if he could have a “splash”, journalists' slang for a front page story.

The request came as Hancock battled to reach his target of 100,000 tests a day. 

The messages from Hancock read: “I need to call in a favour tmrw. I currently have 22,000 spare slots tomorrow at my drive thrus. Hence I’ve extended eligibility today.

“Demand just isn’t there. This is obvs good news about spread of virus. But hard for my target.

“So I really could do with a testing splash.”

Osborne replied by telling him that "of course" he could sort out the front page he wanted.

All Hancock had to do was “give some exclusive words to the Standard” and that he would “tell the team to splash it”.

This comes as Hancock fights claims he rejected advice while health secretary to give coronavirus tests to all residents going into English care homes.

The allegations are based on a leaked trove of more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages obtained by The Daily Telegraph.

The messages were provided to the newspaper by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who was handed them by Hancock while she worked on his Pandemic Diaries memoir.

Hancock’s spokesperson said a report claiming he rejected clinical advice on care home testing was “flat wrong” as he was told it was “not currently possible” to carry out the tests.

They added that the messages have been “spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda”. The investigation revealed that England’s chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty told Hancock in April 2020 that there should be testing for “all going into care homes”.

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The then-health secretary described it as an “obviously good step”. However, exchanges from April 14 2020 suggest he told an aide that the move just “muddies the waters” and introduced mandatory testing only for those coming from hospitals rather than the community.

Allies of Hancock said that was because a lack of testing capacity meant it was not possible to test all those entering a care home.

A spokesperson said: “These stolen messages have been doctored to create a false story that Matt rejected clinical advice on care home testing. This is flat wrong.”

Hancock “enthusiastically accepted” the advice on April 14 but “later that day he convened an operational meeting on delivering testing for care homes where he was advised it was not currently possible to test everyone entering care homes, which he also accepted”.

“Matt concluded that the testing of people leaving hospital for care homes should be prioritised because of the higher risks of transmission, as it wasn’t possible to mandate everyone going into care homes got tested.”

The spokesman continued: “He went as far as possible, as fast as possible, to expand testing and save lives.

“This story categorically shows that the right place for this analysis of what happened in the pandemic is the inquiry.”

The National: Hancock is 'considering all options available' Hancock is 'considering all options available'

The former health secretary is “considering all options” in response to the leak, with one source close to him telling the PA news agency: “She’s (Oakeshott) broken a legal NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Her behaviour is outrageous.”

Oakeshott, who has described lockdowns as an “unmitigated disaster”, said she was releasing the messages because it would take “many years” before the end of the official Covid inquiry, which she claimed could be a “colossal whitewash”.

“That’s why I’ve decided to release this sensational cache of private communications – because we absolutely cannot wait any longer for answers,” she said.

The spokesperson for Hancock said: “It is outrageous that this distorted account of the pandemic is being pushed with partial leaks, spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda, which would have cost hundreds of thousands of lives if followed. What the messages do show is a lot of people working hard to save lives.

“The full documents have already all been made available to the inquiry, which is the proper place for an objective assessment, so true lessons can be learned.”

Other revelations contained in the files show that in September 2020, during a severe backlog in testing, an adviser to Hancock helped get a test sent to senior Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg’s home.

The aide messaged Hancock to say the lab had “lost” the original test for one of the then-Commons leader’s children, “so we’ve got a courier going to their family home tonight”.

He added: “Jacob’s spad (special adviser) is aware and has helped line it all up, but you might want to text Jacob.”

Commenting on the claim, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “The Covid inquiry must look into reports Conservative ministers were able to get priority access to tests at a time of national shortage.”

Declining to comment directly on the leaks, a government spokesman said: “We have always said there are lessons to be learnt from the pandemic.

“We are committed to learning from the Covid inquiry’s findings, which will play a key role in informing the Government’s planning and preparations for the future.”