The Daily Telegraph

Even in the midst of an­other fi­asco, Han­cock has the knack of look­ing on the bright side

- By Michael Dea­con Metropolitan Police Service · Bernard Jenkin

Matt Han­cock may of­ten ap­pear drained and weary – but he has an out­stand­ing abil­ity to look on the bright side. He’s proved it many times since this cri­sis be­gan. And yes­ter­day in the Com­mons, he proved it once again.

At the week­end, news had bro­ken of yet an­other Covid-re­lated fi­asco: al­most 16,000 pos­i­tive cases had ac­ci­den­tally been omit­ted from the Gov­ern­ment’s lat­est fig­ures. An alarm­ing rev­e­la­tion. But, as the Health Sec­re­tary ad­dressed MPS, he still found a way to put a pos­i­tive spin on things.

“Con­tact trac­ing of these cases be­gan first thing on Satur­day,” trum­peted Mr Han­cock.

“We brought in 6,500 hours of ex­tra con­tact trac­ing over the week­end – and I can report to the House that, as of 9am to­day, 51 per cent of the cases have now been con­tacted for con­tact trac­ing pur­poses!”

He made it sound like a tremen­dous achieve­ment. So proud was he, in fact, that he re­peated that fig­ure of 51 per cent an­other four times. MPS may well have been re­as­sured.

Un­less, per­haps, they paused for a moment, and re­flected that, if 51 per cent of cases had been con­tacted, it meant that 49 per cent of cases hadn’t.

Which doesn’t sound quite so heart­en­ing. In­deed, had Mr Han­cock pre­sented the fig­ure that way round (“I’m afraid we still haven’t man­aged to con­tact 49 per cent of cases”), it might have sounded like an ad­mis­sion of fail­ure, rather than a dec­la­ra­tion of suc­cess. But Mr Han­cock – as he al­ways does – had man­aged to look on the bright side.

It’s a cru­cial skill for any min­is­ter. I won­der whether he uses it at home, as well.

“Dar­ling, I’ve been in­cred­i­bly frank that, on this oc­ca­sion, there have been is­sues sur­round­ing the re­mem­ber­ing of your birth­day.

“Which, I would stress, was the re­sult of a tech­ni­cal prob­lem re­lat­ing to the cal­en­dar func­tion on my phone. But I think it’s vi­tal to bear in mind that, over the many years we’ve been to­gether, I have suc­cess­fully re­mem­bered your birth­day on well over 90 per cent of oc­ca­sions – a record that any hus­band would surely be proud of.

“Nonethe­less, I have noted your con­cerns, and I can as­sure you that I am cur­rently work­ing round the clock to en­sure that you re­ceive both a present and a card by no later than the end of this month.”

Re­spond­ing to yes­ter­day’s state­ment, Tory MPS ral­lied round Mr Han­cock.

“No­body can pos­si­bly doubt my right honourable friend’s ut­ter com­mit­ment,” said Sir Bernard Jenkin (Con, Har­wich & N Es­sex), “to do­ing his very best in these cir­cum­stances”.

Nor­mally, we only praise peo­ple for “do­ing their best” when they’re do­ing badly (“Never mind, dear. At least you did your best”).

But I’m sure Sir Bernard didn’t mean it like that. And even if he did, I doubt Mr Han­cock would have let it up­set him.

Af­ter all, he’s very good at look­ing on the bright side.

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