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Bridgen told to ‘remedy deficiencies’ in libel claim against Hancock as parts of case struck out

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

Andrew Bridgen wants to “clear his name” after Mr Hancock allegedly accused him of antisemitism in a “malicious” social media post, the High Court was previously told.

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The January 2023 tweet followed Mr Bridgen, a former Tory MP who now sits as an independent, posting a comment about COVID-19 vaccines.

A judge was told that, on 11 January, 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”.

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.

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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”.

Andrew Bridgen
Image: Andrew Bridgen wants to clear his name after Hancock allegedly accused him of antisemitism in a “malicious” social media post Pic: Rex Features

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 him 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 would have assumed it referred to the North West Leicestershire MP.

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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.

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Image: Matt Hancock lost the Tory whip to go on ITV show I’m a Celebrity. Pic: PA

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”.

In her judgment, Mrs Justice Steyn 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”.

Mr Hancock was health secretary during the pandemic but resigned in June 2021 after breaking social-distancing guidelines by kissing a colleague – his now girlfriend Gina Coladangelo.

The MP for West Suffolk, who was married at the time, lost the Tory whip when he went on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! and now sits as an independent.

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.”

Sky News Source