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West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock loses bid to have Bridgen libel claim thrown out





Former health secretary Matt Hancock has lost a bid to have a libel claim brought against him by MP Andrew Bridgen thrown out by a High Court judge.

Mr Bridgen wants to “clear his name” after allegedly being accused of antisemitism in a “malicious” social media post by Mr Hancock, the court was previously told.

The MP for North West Leicestershire is bringing a libel case against Mr Hancock over a January 2023 tweet that followed Mr Bridgen posting a comment about Covid-19 vaccines.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock tried to have the defamation claim against him struck out by a judge. Picture (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Former health secretary Matt Hancock tried to have the defamation claim against him struck out by a judge. Picture (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

A judge was told that, on January 11, Mr Bridgen shared a link to an article “concerning data about deaths and other adverse reactions linked to Covid vaccines”, and stated: “As one consultant cardiologist said to me, this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust.”

Hours later, Mr Hancock wrote on Twitter – now known as X – that “disgusting and dangerous antisemitic, anti-vax, anti-scientific conspiracy theories spouted by a sitting MP this morning are unacceptable and have absolutely no place in our society”.

I agree with the defendant that, as presently formulated, an essential element of the cause of action is not made out on the claimant’s pleading

High Court judge Mrs Justice Steyn

Mr Bridgen believes “every person reading the tweet knew it was about me”, that it was “seriously defamatory and untrue” and intended to cause “grievous harm” to his reputation, the court was told.

At a preliminary hearing in London earlier this month, Mr Hancock’s lawyers argued the claim against him should be thrown out as it did not have “a realistic prospect of success” and because of the “lack of a properly articulated case”.

In a ruling on Wednesday, Mrs Justice Steyn “struck out” certain parts of Mr Bridgen’s case but did not dismiss the whole claim, instead giving the independent MP the opportunity to make amendments and “remedy the deficiencies”.

Aidan Eardley KC, for Mr Hancock, previously said the way in which Mr Bridgen had set out his case was “hopeless” in relation to the argument that a reader of his tweet – which echoed comments made earlier in the day in Parliament – would have assumed it referred to the North West Leicestershire MP.

Christopher Newman, representing Mr Bridgen, told the court that he had the Tory whip removed the day of his tweet and “no-one was confused” about who Mr Hancock was referring to in his own post – allegedly viewed by 4.2 million people.

Mr Hancock’s tweet allegedly meant “Mr Bridgen is antisemitic” or he advanced “antisemitic theories”, which were “obviously extraordinarily damaging imputations”, the court was told.

Mr Newman said “no honest person could hold the view that Mr Bridgen is antisemitic when there is no evidence at all that he is”.

Mr Bridgen has been told if he wants to put forward a non-defective case then he can do so, and if he does we will obviously continue to fight it, and are highly confident of winning. We will be seeking all relevant costs

Spokesman for Matt Hancock

In her judgment, Mrs Justice Steyn said: “I agree with the defendant that, as presently formulated, an essential element of the cause of action is not made out on the claimant’s pleading.”

The judge said Mr Bridgen’s legal arguments over how the disputed tweet allegedly referred to him were “defective” but could be “cured”, and he should be “given an opportunity to amend”.

A spokesman for Mr Hancock said after the ruling: “Matt welcomes the fact that a core part of Mr Bridgen’s absurd claim has been struck out as defective.

“Mr Bridgen has been told if he wants to put forward a non-defective case then he can do so, and if he does we will obviously continue to fight it, and are highly confident of winning. We will be seeking all relevant costs.”