Matt Hancock’s Half Hour with James Melville

From a podcast blurb:

Isabel and James are joined by the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, who as Health Secretary led the UK’s response to the covid pandemic until his resignation in June 2021. One of the highest profile politicians in the UK, Hancock was an economist at the Bank of England and was an adviser and chief of staff to George Osborne, who would go on to become Chancellor. As a backbencher, he has become a champion of cryptocurrency.

“James” here is James Melville, who has one foot in the conspiracy milieu and his other in more mainstream media networks – sometimes co-hosting online discussions with David Icke’s sidekick Leilani Dowding, but here sitting alongside Isabel Oakeshott, a former political editor of the Sunday Times whose oeuvre includes books co-written with Lord Ashcroft.

Presumably it was Oakeshott rather than Melville who managed to persuade Hancock to appear on their new podcast series The Speakeasy, which describes itself thus:

News just in. Prohibition is back! Governments around the world are clamping down on a dangerous new drug called “free speech” in an effort to stop the spread of common sense. But, like before, there is growing resistance from people who call themselves “freedom fighters”. Investigative journalist Isabel Oakeshott and communications expert James Melville are among their number…

It is not clear how the podcast is being funded. Hancock was probably also unaware that Melville had previously repeatedly insulted him online, describing him as “bascially a candidate from The Apprentice who got fired on week one and somehow ended up running the company” (H/T @turts_).

Melville is best-known for extrapolating malign and dystopian intentions behind public health measures, repeatedly intoning on Twitter that “once you have seen it you can’t unsee it”. He has also recently expressed concern about chemtrails, and in March he suggested that the Western media was refusing to run a story about the Russian army providing humanitarian aid to Ukrainians because this “act of compassion… doesn’t fit the narrative” (he later deleted that one, without explanation).

However, Melville’s willingness to have a friendly chat with Hancock has not been well received by by the conspiracy crowd. Right Said Fred are of the view that Hancock “would only turn up to pre-agreed questions asked by controlled interviewers”, whereas Bev Turner’s assessment is that “If I had @MattHancock in an interview chair and didn’t hold his feet so close to the fire that he wanted to bolt for the door, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror” (a view apparently supported by Dowding, despite working with Melville herself). Former Telegraph cartoonist Bob Moran, meanwhile, complains that “the only time and place it’s ok for [Hancock] to be interviewed is in a police station following his arrest.”

UPDATE: Bev Turner’s assessment has also been endorsed by Neil Oliver, while James Delingpole has compared the interview with a puff piece for Hitler. Boris Johnson’s former lover Jennifer Arcuri meanwhile has suggested that the interview with a “globalist traitor” indicates that Melville is a “sell out”.

On the plus side, though, the interview has been promoted by Hancock himself on his own Twitter feed.

Meanwhile, as an attempt at damage control Oakeshott has announced that “For a grilling over lockdown, ⁦@JamesMelville and I have invited ⁦@MattHancock back to ⁦@TheSpeakeasyFM ! Rest assured we won’t hold back”. Melville’s explanation is that a “round two” was “the whole point of this”, despite the fact that no second interview has been secured and that the original interview was advertised as encompassing lockdown already.

UPDATE 2: Oakeshott subsequently helped Hancock write his memoir of the pandemic, for which he provided her with WhataApp messages that she subsequently leaked for her own purposes. This has assauged some in the conspiracy crowd, who now see the interview as a feint to win Hancock’s trust prior to exposing him. See here.

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