HENRY DEEDES: Applause? Not at Matt Hancock’s perpetual one-man show

Droopy-eyed, theatrical hams are forever grumbling about the relentless grind. Six shows a week, plus matinees on Thursdays and Saturdays. 

Non-stop, dears!

Still, there’s always the adulation to look forward to.

The applause, the whistles, the occasional late night supper at The Ivy, courtesy of a star-struck dowager.

The Health Secretary’s now near-daily performances at the despatch box are met with an increasing wave of insults. Not least from his own side

Sadly, for the perpetual one-man show that is Matt Hancock, there are no such rewards. 

No flowers, no appreciative ‘bravos’ or ‘encores’.

Not so much as a stage-door Johnny pestering for an autograph.

Instead, the Health Secretary’s now near-daily performances at the despatch box are met with an increasing wave of insults. Not least from his own side. 

Yesterday, he arrived to give a statement on the Government’s decision to place London into the higher ‘Tier 2’ category this weekend.

The announcement came as no surprise. London Mayor Sadiq Khan had let slip the news earlier. Publicity prone Sadiq never lets a chance to get on TV go to waste.

Mr Hancock summoned the usual thunderclouds. The situation was ‘grave and serious’. He needed to act fast. 

Oh, but how he wished he didn’t have to. ‘I didn’t go in to politics to put restrictions on people’s lives,’ he said. Yeah, right, Matt.

Teachers at school used to spout this sort of hogwash. How they wished they didn’t have to punish you, how they wished they didn’t have to send you off to the headmaster for another spittle-flecked rollicking.

The power-hungry creeps loved every second of it. And so does the Health Secretary.

As if Hancock hadn’t ruined our weekend enough, he assured us it was all going to get worse before it got better.

But there, there, soothed Uncle Matt. He could see ‘brighter skies and calmer seas ahead’. 

Labour’s health spokesman Jon Ashworth repeated Sir Keir Starmer’s demand for a three-week ‘circuit-breaker’.

Mr Hancock summoned the usual thunderclouds. The situation was ‘grave and serious’. He needed to act fast. Oh, but how he wished he didn’t have to. ‘I didn’t go in to politics to put restrictions on people’s lives,’ he said. Yeah, right, Matt

Mr Hancock summoned the usual thunderclouds. The situation was ‘grave and serious’. He needed to act fast. Oh, but how he wished he didn’t have to. ‘I didn’t go in to politics to put restrictions on people’s lives,’ he said. Yeah, right, Matt

He said this as though it was nothing to fear. Like the dentist who says ‘now, just a small prick’ before lancing your gums with a syringe the size of a bazooka.

Frankly, anyone who thinks another national lockdown will last only three weeks is deluding themselves.

The Opposition benches flung their customary custard pies. Sarah Owen (Lab, Luton N) pondered how Hancock could look himself in the mirror each morning following the farce of his test and trace system.

But it was the attacks from his own side which will have hurt him the most.

Courtly Richard Drax (Con, S Dorset) complained about Hancock’s repeated accusation that those who opposed his lockdown measures were in favour of ‘letting the virus rip’ to take its toll.

It was ‘unhelpful language,’ he said. By which he meant it was deliberately designed to scare the pants off us. Drax demanded to know what ‘Plan B’ was.

Er, there wasn’t one, Hancock admitted. Getting the infection rate down was the only plan in place for now.

London MPs were furious that all of the boroughs were being placed in the same tier.

Sir Bob Neill (Con, Bromley and Chislehurst) called it a ‘one size fits all approach’. Hancock reasoned that infection rates across the capital were rising, hence the need for blanket restrictions.

Sir Bob flashed him the stink eye. I’m fairly certain that he regards the Health Secretary as an abominable little squirt. 

Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Con, Chingford and Woodford Green) urged the Government to think again.

As if Hancock hadn’t ruined our weekend enough, he assured us it was all going to get worse before it got better. But there, there, soothed Uncle Matt. He could see ‘brighter skies and calmer seas ahead’

As if Hancock hadn’t ruined our weekend enough, he assured us it was all going to get worse before it got better. But there, there, soothed Uncle Matt. He could see ‘brighter skies and calmer seas ahead’

He suggested the heavier restrictions being placed on London were a ploy to defuse tensions with the North. 

‘Absolutely not!’ Hancock countered, rather overdoing the wounded theatrics, I thought.

One of the few London MPs to back the measures was Rupa Huq (Lab, Ealing C & Acton). 

She urged Hancock to resist the ‘siren calls’ from his colleagues opposing the Government’s plans.

Comparing leathery old lizards like Sir Bob and IDS to honey-voiced sirens might have been a tad generous.

The session ended with a stinger of a rebuke from William Wragg (Con, Hazel Grove), who reiterated the point that closing hospitality venues simply drove revellers into other people’s dwellings.

‘Will the Government please listen to common sense and think again?’ said the MP, whose career is now over, smoke practically whistling from his ears.

For some time I’ve felt fogeyish Wragg is ripe for a promotion.

His wonderful cameo will have torpedoed any chance of that.

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