So here’s an image of the newly-restored to health, Minister for Health, Matt Hancock leading yesterday’s Government briefing on the coronavirus situation. The daily event has become compulsory viewing in our household as we are desperate to discover whether the outbreak of cases and deaths figures are starting to recede. Sadly it’s not the case as yet. So I try and take some reassurance from the spokespeople. Boris was slow to act at first but he’s actually been growing on us a little until he got isolated with the symptoms. The health officials are a little starchy as you’d imagine so for confidence I’ve been examining the Cabinet understudies to see who’s plausible as a PM in waiting, just in case Bojo doesn’t make it.
Gove was as believable as a snake oil salesman. Raab was draab. And the other guys have been bland as custard so far. So yesterday it was the return to health (ahead of Boris!) and to the lead spokemanship of Matt Hancock. I have to admit I find him to be the Government Minister who comes closest to looking and sounding like a blocked colon; so full of shit he could burst. But let’s not be ungenerous, maybe those 12 day away have enabled him to think about and get to grips with his responsibilities as Head Honcho for the NHS. And hopefully to sort out many, if not all, of the outstanding problems.
Was I disappointed? Well of course I was; he’s a politician after all. He did admit to some early Government failings and slowness. But he has perfected the annoying politico habit of making statements that sound like he’s being decisive and dynamic without actually adding anything solid and factual. Plus he prefixes every statement he wants you to be impressed by, with an opening ‘I’m pleased to announce…’ or the more definite ‘I’m delighted to say…’ or ultimately ‘I’m thrilled to say that…’ Yesterday I counted 2 examples of the first, one of the third and a hefty 5 examples of the ‘delighted’ version. He was so full of delight he could be from Kalkan.
The one person who wasn’t utterly delighted was me of course. I listened very closely to his words. When asked a no-nonsense question by the lovely Laura Kuenssberg about when he’d expect to see every member of the NHS frontline team tested for cv19 he came out with responses like ‘Thank you Laura. I’m delighted to announce that today I have instructed my research teams to open conversations with 9 new suppliers of testing kits to facilitate a faster supply change for the equipment to reach our wonderful front line staff’. Yes, Laura said, but can you give us a date? ‘Well Laura I’m very pleased to report that I have asked my teams to make extraordinary efforts to ensure that there will be sufficient equipment available to enable every frontline NHS member and their families to have the opportunity to be tested with confidence, once we have rigorously tested the new testing equipment for accuracy’. Right. Robert Peston (who couldn’t ask a simple question if he tried) pressed the Minister on whether the priority was being given to testing for the virus or for immunity. ‘Well Robert I’m delighted to confirm that I have taken the important decision to challenge our educational and science community, medical research institutions, and engineering companies to rise to the challenge of helping us deliver all the equipment we need for both essential types of testing as quickly and cost effectively as possible and I remain confident and will work tirelessly to ensure that we have all necessary kit and procedures in place at the point of need at the earliest possible timeframe’.
I’m making all this shit up of course but as you can see it’s relatively easy to make it sound like decisive action is being taken when the reality is it’s just bluster. I’m reminded of the words of Matt’s namesake Tony Hancock from the film The Rebel when he said ‘Give me a frothy coffee.. without the froth’. The thing is though that this bloody virus is a serious issue and I’d prefer our politicians to be honest and straightforward and to drop the double-speak. I’ll write your bloody speeches if you want.