The Daily Telegraph
Even in the midst of another fiasco, Hancock has the knack of looking on the bright side
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.