A croak, a cough, then hot tears of joy… Matt Hancock didn’t just milk it – he wrung every last drop: HENRY DEEDES watches the Health Secretary weep on live TV
Gwyneth at the 1999 Oscars. Gazza at Italia 90. To that list of lip- wobbling blubberers, we can now add the name of Matthew Hancock.
With the arrival of the coronavirus vaccine, the Health Secretary was on Good Morning Britain yesterday to witness the first inoculations take place live on air.
Of course he was!
Mr Hancock, as we know, does not so much milk moments such as these as wring them of every last droplet. Remember his performance at that Downing Street press conference in May when he hit his 100,000-tests-a-day target? It was like witnessing an ageing ham take his final curtain call.
Gwyneth at the 1999 Oscars. Gazza at Italia 90. To that list of lip- wobbling blubberers, we can now add the name of Matthew Hancock, writes Henry Deedes. Pictured: Matt Hancock became tearful on Good Morning Britain over news of first coronavirus vaccine in the UK on Tuesday
A croak, a cough, a half-hearted splutter. Then a vigorous wipe of those eyes before reopening them before his audience.
Yesterday’s theatrics occurred just as an 81-year-old man become only the second British patient to be vaccinated, in a hospital in Warwickshire. His name? One William Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon. Yes, yes, I’m sure the poor old chap’s heard ’em all.
As he watched from a Westminster studio, Mr Hancock’s head began to grow heavy. Before long, he was shaking it from side to side in disbelief. A croak, a cough, a half-hearted splutter. Then a vigorous wipe of those eyes before reopening them before his audience.
‘You’re quite emotional by that,’ remarked host Piers Morgan, crackling with excitement. There is always a little holiday in Piersy’s heart when a guest cries hot tears of joy. Ratings you see. Retweets galore.
Meanwhile, colleague Susanna Reid appeared to be summoning all her powers to stifle her matronly titters. ‘It’s just been such a tough year for so many people, ya know,’ stammered Hancock wearily.
His voice was now a reedy, high-pitched whistle.
As he watched from a Westminster studio, Mr Hancock’s head began to grow heavy. Before long, he was shaking it from side to side in disbelief.
He indulged in a Brando-esque pause. Students of the Stanislavski method will tell you this is how you keep an audience on tenterhooks. Genius. By the way, that folksy ‘ya know?’ Pure improv.
‘It’s been such a tough year for so many people,’ Hancock continued, before adding with one final flourish: ‘So much work gone into this and it makes you proud to be… British,’ Cue thunderous applause. Fade to black. Roll end credits.
Incidentally, Hancock’s peepers? My dears, they were bone dry.
Thankfully, he had pulled himself together in time for his statement to the Commons several hours later.
Like any worthy Oscar-night speechifier, Hancock still had plenty of people to thank. The scientists, the volunteers, Public Health England. It’s a mercy even the people who doused the test tubes in Fairy washing-up liquid each night weren’t singled out for special praise.
First to congratulate Hancock was Health Committee chairman Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Hunt, dressed up in woolly knits, wanted to know when we could all go on a nice warm holiday. ‘It’s very cold outside!’ he complained.
I don’t know if Hancock meant to embarrass his predecessor, but he let it be known he’d already booked a modest break in Cornwall.
Some Labour MPs were determined to sour the mood. Meg Hillier (Lab, Hackney S & Shoreditch) demanded reassurances that no company stood to profit from the vaccine’s roll-out. Groan.
Good Morning Britain presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna spoke to Matt Hancock on Tuesday
Glum Miss Hillier is not big on cheer. Had she been at the collapse of the Berlin Wall, I fear she’d have been grumbling to the Volkspolizei about all the noise.
Crosser still was Naz Shah (Lab, Bradford), who accused the Government of opening vaccine centres only in affluent areas. Hancock coolly informed her that those decisions were firmly in the hands of the NHS. Silence.
Funny, you’d be amazed how swiftly those magical three letters can render a Labour MP mute.
There was the usual concern about those swivel-eyed anti-vaxxers, particularly on social media.
Labour’s Jon Ashworth said he’d read some claptrap online claiming the vaccine was a plot by MPs to change our DNA. Absurd. I shouldn’t think half of them can spell DNA let alone have the slightest clue what it is.
Damian Collins (Con, Folkestone & Hythe) suggested that Hancock raise the matter with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Actually, Hancock replied, he’d recently had conversations with Zuckerberg’s communications chief, former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg (reputed salary £1 million a year).
Not to dampen Mr Hancock’s day, but that remark was one for the file marked: ‘Not very reassuring.’
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