a picture of the Scottish Flag, with a picture of Gary Lineker and of the Whatsapp logo inset into the photo

The top stories that defined March 2023

If April showers bring May flowers, what does March bring? The news! And here are the three top stories from March in 2023:

Matt Hancock’s Whatsapp texts leaked

What happened:

On March 1st, Matt Hancock, foe of CCTV, had his Whatsapp texts from his tenure as Health Secretary during the Covid-19 Pandemic leaked.

The messages were leaked by journalist Isabel Oakeshott who had helped Hancock write his book The Pandemic Diaries

The texts were not well received, to say the least.

They showed Hancock mocking teachers’ unions claiming they used a lack of PPE as an excuse not to teach.

These messages also showed Hancock suggesting that over-65s should not have extra shielding during a Covid lockdown because the risk of Covid is, according to Health Secretary Hancock, as bad as falling down the stairs and over 65s are not protected from stairs. 

Why does it matter:

The ongoing Covid inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic has dominated recent headlines, and Hancock’s leaked texts add another layer to questioning the Government’s preparedness and response to the pandemic.

The UK had one of the highest Covid death rates in Europe, and people want to know how the Government, especially the Health Secretary, handled questions around PPE, the elderly, lockdown and more during the height of the pandemic. 

Gary Lineker disciplined by the BBC for controversial tweets 

What happened:

On March 7th, Match of the Day presenter crisp fanatic and my mum’s celebrity crush Gary Lineker tweeted about the Government’s immigration policy saying: “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?” 

The BBC accused him of breaching impartiality rules and asked him to ‘step back’ from MOTD, leading to other pundits refusing to go on air in solidarity with Lineker.

On March 13th Lineker was reinstated in his role. 

Why does it matter:

Gary Lineker has been accused of breaking impartiality rules again this December, after he signed a petition urging the government to scrap their Rwanda deportation policy.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has said Lineker should “stick to football.”

So far Lineker has not faced repercussions from the BBC for this alleged breach.

Humza Yousaf elected as leader of the Scottish National Party

What happened:

On March 27th, Humza Yousaf was narrowly elected to be the leader of the SNP, and therefore also Scotland’s first minister, following longtime SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation in February. 

Yousaf said in his election speech: “We are one team and we will be the generation that delivers independence for Scotland.”

Why does it matter: 

Yousaf has risen to a prominent position in UK politics in late 2023 following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas, as he was the first leadership figure in the UK to call for a ceasefire in the region.

His wife’s family was in Gaza at the start of the war, and he has used his position to call for a humanitarian end to the conflict.

The SNP brought a ceasefire vote to Parliament in December 2023, which divided the Labour Party into pro and anti ceasefire camps.

This may have an effect on upcoming elections, as Labour is currently the SNP’s largest competition in Scotland. 

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