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HENRY DEEDES investigates Matt Hancock's authoritarian tendencies


Matt Hancock came in loving life at the head of this new authoritarian regime: HENRY DEEDES is presumptuous in observing the Health Secretary in Parliament

What a cocky figure Matt Hancock made when he entered the chamber yesterday. It was as if a scarf squire had just strolled into the village pub. The walk was long and purposeful, his muzzle protected at a 45-degree angle.

Under one arm was his ministerial folder, which was embedded so casually that it could have been a copy of the racing mail.

As the health minister hovered in his seat, he turned and scanned his smaller colleagues on the bench. His eyes were narrowed, as if to suggest that he was at least vaguely familiar with one or two of them. A smile, a quick joke. Cue a few nervous titters among them.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, pictured in the House of Commons yesterday, appears pleased with the draconian restrictions put in place by Boris Johnson's administration

Matt Hancock began his Commons address with "Anxiety Statistics," which included increasing hospital admissions and an increasing number of patients in need of intensive care

Matt Hancock began his Commons address with "Anxiety Statistics," which included increasing hospital admissions and an increasing number of patients in need of intensive care

Seeing the Minister of Health in such airy, presumptuous form is almost enough to give hope in these desperate times. When an airplane encounters severe turbulence, don't you find relief in the carefree smile of a pimped flight attendant?

I am afraid to feel such assurances from Mr Hancock would be completely wrong. It just so happens that he loves life at the helm of this new authoritarian regime. The more he has to play his ministerial muscles, the happier he seems to be. He had come to open the debate on the government's recent lockdown restrictions announced by the Prime Minister on Monday.

We started with the usual fear stats that were supposed to make us scurry back behind the sofa. Rising hospital admissions, a seven-fold increase in ICU patients in the north … Much of his energy was devoted to garbage collection by scientists who advocated a herd immunity approach.

It was all rubbish, he insisted. Nonsense. He argued that many infectious diseases like measles or flu never achieve herd immunity. Why should coronavirus be any different? The sheer contempt in his voice when he said that. Any moment I thought he might be "fools!" Scream.

Mr Hancock has been criticized by backers who have accused the government of propping up the country with "enormous amounts of ultra-cheap debt".

Mr Hancock has been criticized by backers who have accused the government of propping up the country with "enormous amounts of ultra-cheap debt".

Labor health spokesman Jon Ashworth made it clear that he would not stand in the way of the new measures, although he felt they should go much further. Mr. Ashworth looks relaxed. He does not allow himself to be rubbed by Hancock's harrowing carelessness. Unlike some of his colleagues.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham E and Saddleworth) has worked her way up an old door on the government's handling of the crisis. "I won't let her get away with this!" She yelled twice. The government benches weren't quite boiled over. But they certainly cooked sometimes. The 1922 committee chairman Sir Graham Brady was slightly appalled at the way new laws had been put in place to control the entire country. He pleaded with Hancock that this "half-living state must not become permanent". Hancock nodded his head vigorously. I have a feeling he's a little scared of Brady.

More from Henry Deedes for the Daily Mail …

The dire reality of our economy was brought home by Steve Baker (Con, Wycombe). He found it "precarious" that the current strategy was to wait for a vaccine while supporting us with huge amounts of ultra-cheap debt.

Baker suggested that "a particularly high level of business education" was required to believe that this strategy might be a problem. A rueful grin came around him.

The beautifully tailored Imran Ahmad Khan (Con, Wakefield) delivered a devastating speech on the "crippling" effect the proposals would have in his region.

His inbox had been "flooded" by local business owners. "I have not received a single email recommending the government for any of these proposals," he threatened.

Regarding e-mail, a cross, Sir Christopher Chope (Con, Christ-Church) read a quote from William Pitt sent to him by one of his constituents: “Necessity is the plea for any violation of human freedom. It is the argument of the tyrants; It is the slave's creed. "

The most frank observation of the country's finances came from Sir Edward Leigh (Con, Gainsborough) during an earlier urgent question about Rishi Sunak's latest series of economic bailouts. Crotchety Sir Edwards diagnosis? "We're going bankrupt as a nation." And to think it's only Wednesday.

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