Matt Hancock is facing the test of his life... and in the Commons he finally snapped

Hancock
Rosena Allin-Khan, a shadow minister and frontline NHS doctor, challenged Matt Hancock over his record on testing

It was a peculiar response. In the Commons, Rosena Allin-Khan of Labour had just asked Matt Hancock2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app about the Government’s handling of the crisis. Its strategy on testing, she said, had been “non-existent. Community testing was scrapped, mass testing was slow to roll out, and .” Would the Health Secretary accept that, in the view of many frontline workers, a lack of testing had cost some patients their lives?

A reasonable enough question, calmly delivered. Yet Mr Hancock could scarcely hide his indignation. If he’d been a cat, he’d have arched his back, and the fur on his tail would have fluffed up in self-defence. 

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appWhat she’d said, he sniffed, was “not true”. The Government had been “entirely transparent” about testing figures. And in his view, she would “do well” to learn from her boss, Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary – and watch her “tone”.

An unusually huffy and condescending reply. And, in the circumstances, ill-judged, given that Rosena Allin-Khan is not merely a shadow minister – she also happens to be a frontline NHS doctor2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app, who during this crisis has been doing shifts at her local hospital, treating coronavirus patients, and thereby risking her own life to save other people’s. She is, in short, the sort of person Mr Hancock makes a great show of applauding at eight o’clock every Thursday night. 

Perhaps he should consider watching his tone.

Then again, maybe he was just tired. As Health Secretary, Mr Hancock is under more pressure than any other minister, and in his public appearances it’s been starting to show: the voice weary, the eyes puffy, the skin pale. The poor man looks like a haunted teabag. 

This afternoon he spent an hour and a half at the dispatch box, first taking his monthly round of departmental questions, and then, straight afterwards, slogging his way through a further round of questions on the crisis – most of them, as is now the norm, from MPs using video-call. 

By and large these “virtual” parliamentary sessions have gone extremely well, and are a credit to the staff who set them up. On the odd occasion, though, the sound has broken up. Such was the fate today of Tory MP Jonathan Gullis, who was calling from his seat of Stoke-on-Trent North.

“Scrubs for Stoke and the Haywood Academy,” he began, “have produced amazing amounts of prrrrrrrrrx whrtttttt trrrrRRRRR prrrtttttt. Could the minister inform us what brrrrrrrrrrt krk krk krk prxrxrxrxrx crzrzrzrzrzrz care homes, and zrrrrrrrt cxcxcxcxcx krk TRRRRRT krk krk krk xhxhxhxhxh whrrt RRRRRRRRT optimum use of PPE?”

The question was almost wholly unintelligible. He sounded like a malfunctioning R2D2. 

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appJo Churchill, a junior health minister, seemed unfazed, however, and responded by speaking for almost a minute about PPE and infection control training.

Maybe she quite enjoyed it. After all, if no one has any idea what the question was, they can’t possibly say your answer was wrong.