Former council leader branded 't****r from Newcastle' in Matt Hancock's pandemic diaries

Matt Hancock recalled the moment Boris Johnson allegedly called Nick Forbes a "t****r". Credit: ITV / PA

An ex-council leader has hit back at Matt Hancock after being branded a "t****r from Newcastle" in the former health secretary's book.

Nick Forbes, the former Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, is said to have been described as such by Boris Johnson during the pandemic.

In an excerpt from Mr Hancock's diaries, which have been serialised in the Daily Mail, Mr Forbes was labelled a "chancer" for criticising the government's North East Covid restrictions in 2020.

In his diary entry for that day, Mr Hancock wrote: "Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, has been sounding off about the impact of the [latest] restrictions on the local economy, accusing me of imposing them in 'knee-jerk' style and claiming it's 'confusion and chaos'.

"Boris was indignant. 'Who is this t****r from Newcastle?' he asked. I told him Forbes had called for the measures and we'd worked all weekend with his council to agree them. 'Then he's come out against them. Unreal,' I said.

"It's part of a pattern: Labour chancers cooperate with us privately and then the minute we announce everything we've been talking to them about, they take to the airwaves to bleat about it all being a mess."

In Mr Hancock's book, Mr Johnson is described as being "indignant" at Mr Forbes for claiming the local lockdown measures had been announced too quickly, causing "confusion and chaos".

But the former council leader, who stepped back from city politics in May after being deselected by Labour members, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that regional leaders suffered "endless frustration" with ministers during the pandemic.

He said: "Eating kangaroo testicles has clearly affected Matt Hancock's memory. I argued both in public and in private for appropriate restrictions to deal with the Covid pandemic as it developed. I also argued that we needed proper support for businesses that would be affected.

"It was an endless frustration that they would announce restrictions for the North East without publishing the details of the regulations, which made it virtually impossible to answer the myriad of questions that were inevitably raised as a result.

"Matt Hancock seems to be misunderstanding my raising concerns with government about their incompetence in writing the rules and lack of support for businesses with a political agenda."

Mr Hancock, who recently came third on ITV's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, announced at the time that indoor mixing of people from different households would be banned across Northumberland, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham.

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