‘Eat out to help out’: Chancellor Rishi Sunak warns a generation of young people risk being ‘lost’ to coronavirus pandemic unless people start spending in pubs and restaurants
- Rishi Sunak asked Britons to ‘eat out to help out’ in a bid to boost the economy
- The chancellor fears the younger generation will be ‘scarred by coronavirus’
- The Bank of England’s chief economist predicted the UK is headed for a recovery
The chancellor warned yesterday that a generation of young people risked being ‘lost’ to the coronavirus unless the public started spending in pubs and restaurants.
Rishi Sunak asked Britons to ‘eat out to help out’ in a bid to boost the economy and avoid a jobs meltdown that will hit the young hardest.
Mr Sunak said he feared that the younger generation would otherwise be ‘scarred by coronavirus’.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak asked Britons to ‘eat out to help out’ in a bid to boost the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic
People enjoy drinks at a bar in Clapham, London, last night as pubs prepare to reopen from 6am today
He told the Times: ‘This is a consumption-driven economy; people used to, three months ago, go out with their friends or family to go and have a meal.
‘Or buy a car, or upgrade their house, or move house.
‘Go camping, come up to the Yorkshire Dales and go coast-to-coast.’ Mr Sunak added that it was important to get ‘the next few bits right’ in order to save the younger generation’s jobs and lifestyles.
The Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane predicted this week that Britain was headed for a V-shaped recovery.
Addressing the comments, the chancellor said ‘we all want Andy to be right’ but conceded some hardship was inevitable.
Shaggy-haired Brits who haven’t had a haircut in over 100 days dashed to the salon at MIDNIGHT as salons and barbers opened the second they are allowed – as pubs throw open their doors on Super Saturday from 6am
BY DARREN BOYLE AND SIMON WALTERS FOR THE DAILY MAIL AND AMIE GORDON FOR MAILONLINE
Shaggy-haired Brits dashed to salons the second they opened at midnight to get a much needed makeover.
After three months in lockdown, they leapt at the first opportunity for a trim, knowing that hairdressers and barbers would be ramp-packed for weeks after reopening.
On what is the biggest release of lockdown so far, many salons were working through the night to meet demand.
They were allowed to open as new rules kicked in relaxing lockdown today which has been dubbed Super Saturday and Trimdependence Day in a nod to the date, July 4.
Pubs were allowed to open from 6am, allowing the hospitality industry to make the most of the first day back in business, but leading to warnings that thirsty Brits must not overdo it.
Boris Johnson and Chris Whitty both warned of the need for people to behave, and be sensible, or risk a sudden spike in coronavirus infections.
And Matt Hancock warned that drunken thugs would be locked up if they run riot – a definite possibility if people remain in pubs all day. NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens also called for restraint and not ‘pub-ageddon’ when bars and restaurants reopen.
Confronted with a rammed appointment book for the next five weeks, at the stroke of midnight, salons were eager to start welcoming clients as soon as possible.
Daren Terry of Lotus Styling in Bognor told MailOnline: ‘I’ve opened at midnight because the demand was there. In truth, I could stay open for the next 24 hours and I would be flat out because we have been closed for so long.
‘I’m going to cut a few head tonight and then I’ll be back at 7am with all of my team for my 10-hour shift.
‘It will be the first time we are working with the PPE so I want to be here with them, otherwise I could have worked through the night.’
Charlotte’s Academy in Cowes, Isle of Wight, had bookings for 20 customers from one-minute past midnight until 8.30am, where they were dealt with by a team of three hair stylists.
But on what is being touted as the new ‘Independence Day’, Boris Johnson, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and the Health Secretary have all begged people to ‘behave’.
This comes as Matt Hancock warned drunken thugs would be locked up if they run riot on ‘Super Saturday’.
The Health Secretary told the Mail that Britons could ‘by all means go to the bar’ today but they had to be sensible. He added: ‘You could end up behind bars if you break the law.’
In other developments last night:
- Greece, Spain, France and Belgium were put on a list of 59 countries which Britons can visit without having to undergo 14 days of quarantine. The US, Portugal and China were excluded;
- Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed the Government’s policy on air bridges and quarantines had been ‘shambolic’;
- Scientists warned that the ‘R’ rate in London may have crept above 1;
- Mr Hancock pledged ‘the biggest flu jab programme in history’ to prepare for the risk of a second wave of coronavirus;
- It is believed only half of the nation’s 28,000 pubs will reopen today;
- Official figures showed that almost 30,000 more care home deaths occurred during the pandemic than in 2019;
- The total death toll rose to 44,131 with a further 137 confirmed yesterday;
- It was claimed the UK was in talks to join an EU plan to secure supplies of potential coronavirus vaccines;
- The PM said cricket could resume next weekend and suggested the use of face masks in queues and confined spaces;
- Mr Hancock pledged 100 per cent support for police chiefs tasked with stopping ‘Super Saturday’ disorder.
Daren Terry of Lotus Styling in Bognor told MailOnline: ‘I’ve opened at midnight because the demand was there. In truth, I could stay open for the next 24 hours and I would be flat out because we have been closed for so long’
Stylist Hayley Hehir, right, pictured with Francesca Shashkova, right, started work at midnight as the first people had their hair cut
Dave’s Gentlemen Barbers in Morpeth, Northumberland opened its doors at midnight
The Anthony Laban Barbershop in Battersea re opened just past midnight
Dave’s Gentlrmens Barbers in Morpeth Northumberland was ready for customers at midnight
Cab driver Kai Ward, 51, was among the first people in England to receive a legal trim after booking an appointment at Lotus Styling in Bognor
A large crowd gathered at Borough Market in London last night in advance of bars reopening at 6am
Drunken thugs will be locked up if they run riot on ‘Super Saturday’, Health Secretary Matt Hancock (left) warned last night. NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens (right) also called for restraint and not ‘pub-ageddon’ when bars and restaurants open for the first time in more than three months
The (bizarre) Super Saturday rule book: What else is reopening today?
Restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars can all reopen from today, with both indoor and outdoor seating options – subject to distancing guidelines – allowed.
Reservations at popular spots are going fast, with some offering deals, discounts and free drinks to entice diners back.
Discretionary reopening for all hotels, B&Bs, holiday apartments, caravan parks and campsites from today. The only exception is youth hostel dorms.
Hairdressers and barbers can also reopen today, including freelance stylists who come to your home.
But other beauty services – nail bars, spas, waxing studios, massage parlours and tanning salons, whether mobile or in a fixed location, remain off-limits. Tattoo and piercing studios are also closed until further notice.
Outdoor playparks, skate parks and gyms will reopen from today, as will amusement arcades and outdoor skating rinks. Indoor gyms, soft play areas, bowling alleys, dance/fitness studios, and indoor and outdoor pools remain closed until further notice.
All major theme parks, adventure parks, funfairs and model villages are set to reopen today, as are indoor attractions at zoos and safari parks, aquariums and enclosed areas of gardens, heritage sites and landmarks. Water parks and water rides remain closed.
Weddings and civil partnerships can go ahead from today, but numbers are limited to 30 people, including the couple, witnesses, staff and officiants.
Churches, mosques and other places of worship are open to the public from today, although private services such as funerals and baptisms are limited to 30 people.
Showcase is the only chain to be reopening all its cinemas today.
Odeon will open ten venues up and down the country, followed by the rest on July 16. Everyman will follow the same pattern.
Community centres, social clubs and youth clubs can all reopen this weekend, as can libraries – both local and national – and bingo halls.
Cab driver Kai Ward, 51, was among the first people in England to receive a legal trim after booking an appointment at Lotus Styling in Bognor.
He said: ‘I always get my hair cut by Daren. Once I knew he was going to start at midnight I had to be the first.
‘I haven’t touched my barnet as you can see.
‘Daren’s cut my hair and for about 20 years I wouldn’t go any where else!’
And Sunderland salon owner Debra Adamson has agreed to open on the hour for a loyal customer who failed to find an appointment after they were quickly snapped up following Boris Johnson’s announcement last month.
Charlotte Stephan, the owner of Charlotte’s Academy, said she is excited about tonight’s reopening and has been longing to get back in the salon.
But she stressed that the safety of staff and customers was paramount and showcased her revamped salon to make it Covid-secure.
Perspex screens have been erected around the salon, which has also been rearranged so that customers can maintain social distance.
A one-way system has been put in place and staff will wear PPE while customers will have to wear face masks, and everybody will have their temperature checked before entering.
The contamination prevention measures are typical of ones being implemented in salons across the country.
Under government guidelines, customers must remain at ‘one-metre plus’ apart and must insist on regular hand-washing.
Magazines, long a staple of salon waiting areas, will also be banned to stop people spreading germs when handling them.
Although her work will look radically different from pre-lockdown, Ms Stephan, 40, told MailOnline: ‘I’m so excited. I’m very close to a lot of my customers and it feels as if I’m being reunited with family members.
‘I have to be there to see them again but it’s going to be really hard not to hug them. I don’t like coffee so it’s adrenaline that’s going to be keeping me awake.’
She added: ‘I’m also very nervous because I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.’
Yet after weathering a tough lockdown, Ms Stephan is thrilled that her customers will be flooding into her doors at the earliest opportunity.
She said: ‘The lockdown was a very difficult time for me personally and for the business.
‘This salon is my baby and it’s wonderful to be able to open our doors again.’
NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens also called for restraint and not ‘pub-ageddon’ when bars and restaurants open for the first time in more than three months.
Writing in the Mail, he said doctors and nurses did not want ‘the drunk and disorderly’ to flood hospitals.
The double intervention came ahead of the biggest easing of restrictions since a sweeping national lockdown was imposed at the end of March.
Boris Johnson issued his own warning last night, urging the public not to ‘blow it’ by throwing caution to the wind.
He said today was ‘our biggest step yet on the road to recovery’ but insisted he would reimpose localised lockdowns if reckless behaviour led to a resurgence of the coronavirus.
‘In Leicester, we took decisive action to stop infections shooting up,’ said the Prime Minister.
Francesca Shashkova, pictured, uses a plastic shield as her hair is washed at Tusk Hair in Camden
Stylist Tommy D’Amour cuts the hair of client Lea Jantz at Tusk Hair, in Camden, North London
Carole Rickiby cuts Sandra Jacobs’ hair shortly after midnight , moments after the Covid-19 lockdown rules were slackened
People getting their hair done will have to get used to seeing their stylist wearing PPE such as masks and face guards
The Health Secretary added: ‘When it comes to local action, I won’t shirk from a shutdown if that is what’s needed to keep people safe – and that includes closing bars and pubs, if necessary.
‘I’m no killjoy, but the virus can still kill. I don’t want to see bars and pubs have to close again. I love going to the pub and enjoy a pint or two.’
The police and the emergency services are bracing for mayhem today, with pubs allowed to reopen from 6am. In some parts of the country, more officers have been deployed than on new year’s eve.
Mr Hancock pledged 100 per cent support for police chiefs tasked with stopping ‘Super Saturday’ disorder.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also urged people to make the most of the easing to boost the economy, claiming the public needs to ‘eat out to help out’.
He told the Times: ‘This is a consumption-driven economy; people used to, three months ago, go out with their friends or family to go and have a meal.
‘Or buy a car, or upgrade their house, or move house. Go camping, come up to the Yorkshire Dales and go coast to coast.’
The Health Secretary told the Mail that Britons could ‘by all means go to the bar’ today but they had to be sensible. Pictured: BrewDog Tower Hill staff finish preparations for tomorrow’s opening with plastic screens in place on tables
Drinkers share their excitement at returning to their favourite locals but pubs are forced to cancel midnight reopening parties
With some pubs set to reopen from 6am on Saturday – depending on their license – a number of people have taken to Twitter to express their excitement at pubs reopening
People have taken to twitter to say how excited they are for ‘Super Saturday’ for pubs to reopen, with some predicting that their favourite locals will be packed with drinkers keen to be back at a bar after over three months of lockdown.
Some have even likened their excitement to the pubs re-opening to Christmas Eve, which was seen trending on Twitter of Friday night.
Some landlords – including the pub chain BrewDog – had planned to reopen their venues in England as the clock ticked past midnight.
But several hours before they were due to welcome customers, No 10 said on Friday afternoon the ban would now remain in place until later on Saturday morning.
Pub owners and the Police Federation of England and Wales have since criticised the timing of the announcement.
Following the announcement that pubs could not have midnight opening parties, Adam Snowball, managing director of the Showtime sports bar in Huddersfield, said it was ‘massively disappointing’ to have to cancel his reopening event.
The 35-year-old said about 50 people had booked a table at his venue on Zetland Street, which would have remained open until 3.30am.
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said while he welcomed the decision to keep pubs shut until 6am, the timing of the announcement was ‘very unhelpful’.
Mr Apter said the federation, which represents thousands of rank and file officers, had ‘raised concerns’ about some pubs planning to open after midnight.
The British Beer and Pubs Association has urged people to follow hygiene measures that will in place at pubs and to be respectful and supportive of landlords and staff working in pubs and bars.
While regulations allowing for the reopening of pubs and bars comes into force from 6am, licensing conditions will still apply, and therefore pubs will only be able to open when their license allows.
Barman Michael Fitzsimons wears PPE while pouring a pint behind a protective shield at the bar, during final preparations at The Faltering Fullback pub in North London, ahead of its reopening
The George, in Eton, Windsor, Berkshire had a staff training evening tonight as they get ready to reopen their pub tomorrow
The Corner Ale and Cider House in Windsor, Berkshire is preparing to reopen their pub tomorrow on what has been billed as ‘Super Saturday’
Staff at BrewDog Tower Hill tonight prepare to reopen tomorrow with social distancing measures in place
Staff at BrewDog Tower Hill in London prepare the pub’s menu in preparation for its reopening tomorrow
After being shuttered for months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, pubs and restaurants, many of which have already been serving for take-away, can fully reopen as of July 4
Asked if courts should take a tough line with booze-fuelled idiots who start fights in pubs, he said: ‘Of course, the law is there for a reason. The Government would not shrink from shutting pubs again where there was irresponsible behaviour.’
The British Medical Association urged revellers to act responsibly amid fears that emergency departments could see a sharp rise in alcohol-related casualties.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, also warned at a news conference of the danger of the ‘superspreading’ of coronavirus in pubs.
And Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said: ‘This virus is a long way from gone, it is not going to be gone for a long time. Nobody watching this believes this is a risk-free next step.’
In his article for the Mail, Sir Simon urged the public to ‘exercise restraint’ today.
He said: ‘Our A&E doctors, nurses and paramedics are desperate not to see so-called ‘pubageddon’ – with hospitals flooded with the drunk and disorderly.’
Boris’s local lockdown threat: As pubs open doors for first time in 14 weeks, PM warns public: Don’t blow it
BY JOHN STEVENS, GEORGE ODLING AND SEAN POULTER FOR THE DAILY MAIL
Boris Johnson told the nation ‘don’t blow it’ as pubs reopened for the first time in three months today – and threatened more local lockdowns if the virus surges.
Police are bracing for mayhem on what has been dubbed ‘Super Saturday’ with more officers deployed in some parts of the country than on New Year’s Eve.
Pubs and restaurants in England will be allowed to resume trading from 6am with the Prime Minister describing it as the ‘biggest step yet’ back towards normality.
A timetable for the re-opening of other venues that remain shut, including gyms and swimming pools, will be published next week along with guidance on mass gatherings such as concerts.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the nation ‘don’t blow it’ as pubs reopened for the first time in three months today – and threatened more local lockdowns if the virus surges
People will also be allowed to start playing cricket again from next weekend. However, Mr Johnson struck a note of caution yesterday, urging the public to ‘enjoy the summer sensibly’.
He warned that lockdown restrictions could be re-imposed on local hotspots if there is a sudden spike in coronavirus infections. Mr Johnson said: ‘We’re making progress, we think we’re in good shape but my message is let’s not blow it.’
At a Downing Street press conference, he added: ‘As we take this next step – our biggest step yet on the road to recovery – I urge the British people to do so safely.’
He cautioned that the country was ‘not out of the woods yet’.
And he insisted he would ‘not hesitate’ to reimpose restrictions if rates of infection spiralled again, with local lockdowns, such as the one in Leicester, a ‘feature of our lives for some time to come’.
‘The success of these businesses, the livelihoods of those who rely on them and ultimately the economic health of the whole country is dependent on every single one of us acting responsibly,’ he said. ‘We must not let them down.’
Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, also sounded a highly cautious tone.
He said the probability of a second wave of infections would go up ‘very, very sharply’ if people failed to follow the rules.
He added: ‘This virus is a long way from gone, it is not going to be gone for a long time. Nobody watching this believes this is a risk-free next step. We have to be absolutely serious about it.’
Cornwall braces for mass influx of 80,000 tourists this weekend as hospitality industry opens its doors on ‘Super Saturday’
Visit Cornwall chief executive Malcolm Bell said there could be between 75,000 and 80,000 visitors flocking to the county this weekend. Above, head housekeeper Carolanne Rowe wears PPE as she cleans a balcony at St Moritz in Cornwall
Cornwall could see a staggering 80,000 tourists entering the county this weekend, as businesses open their doors on ‘Super Saturday’.
There is expected to be an influx of visitors as hotels, campsites, pubs and restaurants are allowed to open on July 4, for the first time since lockdown.
Hotels, AirBnBs, campsites and caravan parks are gearing up to welcome tourists opting for staycations, rather than travelling abroad, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Visit Cornwall chief executive Malcolm Bell said there could be between 75,000 and 80,000 visitors flocking to the county this weekend, Cornwall Live reported.
He said this figure is down 30% on usual tourist numbers at this time of year, but that it is expected to rise to 100,000 in the coming weeks.
Mr Bell said that not all accommodation providers plan to open this weekend, with some holiday parks and hotels opening on Monday or later next week.
He added that some hotels would be running at 50% occupancy for the first few days to make sure they are ready for guests, after bringing staff back from furlough.
Under new laws published yesterday, pubs can reopen at 6am today. However, they can only serve alcohol during their normal licensing hours and the re-opening time was determined to avoid people drinking just after midnight.
New laws will also give the police the power to break up any gatherings of more than 30 people.
Yesterday, police chiefs warned that anyone breaking the rules this weekend would be prosecuted and that pubs could be shut down.
Emergency services are expected to be so stretched that ambulance bosses have urged people to phone 999 only if it is life threatening.
West Midlands Labour Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he was hoping for bad weather as he warned the decision to re-open pubs on a Saturday was a recipe for ‘serious disorder’.
He added: ‘It is the case that when the weather is inclement, the problems we have are somewhat reduced. So we’re praying for rain.’
Scotland Yard commander Bas Javid called for drinkers in the capital to be responsible and said it was important ‘we don’t lose track of how far we have all come’.
Police in Leicester – the first city put in local lockdown – fear people will travel to nearby Nottingham for a drink and will be patrolling train stations in both cities to question passengers.
The National Police Chiefs’ lead for alcohol harm, Rachel Kearton, said she expected ‘New Year’s Eve-style’ celebrations but people should be prepared to alter plans or go home if venues are too busy.
Yesterday the Prime Minister vowed to move away from ‘blanket measures’ and instead use local lockdowns to combat Covid.
He outlined a five-step plan for how regional outbreaks would be dealt with.
Firstly Government scientists will be tasked with looking out for local hotspots, second NHS Test and Trace will seek to develop a deeper understanding of these and, third, extra testing will be used to get a grip on the problem.
The fourth step would use restrictions could such as closing individual premises and, fifth, local lockdowns will be brought in if the problem persists.
Mr Johnson also suggested people should consider using face coverings when queuing.
‘This isn’t just another disease for me. Friends have died. I got off lightly’: Matt Hancock reveals his own struggles with coronavirus as critics lash the Health Secretary for ‘over-promising and under-delivering’
BY SIMON WALTERS FOR THE DAILY MAIL
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, 41, was mightily relieved to reach his much-vaunted target of 100,000 Covid tests a day with hours to spare in the last week of May
The first sign Matt Hancock had that he was feeling the strain of dealing with the Government’s attempt to fight coronavirus was when he noticed wife Martha scrutinising his thinning hair.
She singled out a single grey strand and promptly pulled it out.
It was the last week in May, a big moment politically and personally for 41-year-old Health Secretary.
He was mightily relieved to reach his much-vaunted target of 100,000 Covid tests a day with hours to spare. But it came at a cost: ‘We hit the target but in the process I got my first grey hair!’ he laughs.
Tiggerish Hancock loves setting himself political targets. But when the results of the inevitable inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic are published, many expect him to be in the cross hairs.
He has been the subject of vicious sniping from unnamed Downing St sources for allegedly ‘over-promising and under-delivering’ on combatting the virus, the fiasco of the anti-Covid app and clashes with the Prime Minister.
Yet sitting in his office in the Health Department in Westminster, Hancock did not look like a man expecting the coronavirus chop.
In his first major interview since the crisis began in March, he warned drunken thugs they faced jail if they abuse today’s reopening of pubs and announced the biggest ever flu jab programme to help the NHS prepare for the risk of a new Covid wave in winter.
In a rare public show of emotion, he talked candidly of how the crisis has made him rethink his approach to politics and life.
Hancock, a father of three, was struck down by Covid at the same time as Boris Johnson, and says that although he was back at his desk in a week it was a ‘horrible’ experience.
‘For two days I couldn’t swallow, eat or drink. It was like having shards of glass in your throat.’
Hancock believes that being trim – he is six feet tall and twelve stone seven pounds – helped him get over it quickly. ‘Thin people get through it better than fat people,’ he said.
Could he match his chunkier fellow survivor Boris Johnson’s theatrical performance of one or two press ups in front of the cameras in his Downing Street study?
Hancock believes that being trim – he is six feet tall and twelve stone seven pounds – helped him get over it quickly
‘I’m not in competition with the Prime Minister,’ Hancock replied coyly, before adding: ‘I can do maybe 25.’
Three of Hancock’s friends have been lost to Covid: economics professor Deepak Lal; Sir Peter Sinclair who taught him when he joined the Bank of England after university; and British envoy Steven Dick, who worked for Hancock when he was Culture, Media and Sports Secretary.
‘This really matters for me,’ he said. ‘This isn’t just another disease and it isn’t just a policy problem. I feel the effects of it really personally. People I admire and respect have died. Friends. I got off lightly.’
Hancock is planning a quiet Super Saturday: a pint of beer with his brother Chris – and a haircut. And in suitably responsible style (unlike Boris Johnson’s reckless dad Stanley) has booked a family ‘staycation’ in Cornwall in August.
He has often been accused of paying more attention to political games than principles. Not any more, he claimed: ‘I have learned about the need to rise above some of the politics…the comings and goings.’
He defended his record in curbing the virus, but there is no escaping the fact that Britain has one of the highest numbers of fatalities in the world.
And most experts admit there were mistakes in delaying the initial lockdown and failing to protect the elderly in care homes, and bungles over testing and apps.Hancock will be the fall guy, not Johnson or the scientists; it’s on his watch, I suggested.
‘Everybody was doing the best job they possibly could. The decisions we took we took together… we were trying to use all the information at your disposal and come to the best judgements that collectively you can.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock with horse Star of Bengal after going out riding with the Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket
Note his use of the words ‘together,’ ‘collectively’, ‘all the information at your disposal’.
A cynic’s translation might be: ‘I might be the Health Secretary but everything I did was signed off by the Prime Minister so don’t blame me. And if I made any blunders it was because the scientists gave me the wrong information.’
Was he big enough to admit he personally had got some things wrong? He replied cautiously: ‘We are constantly learning…’ I interjected: ‘You dumped the elderly into care homes, thousands died.’ He replied: ‘That wasn’t the case.’
Finally he conceded there were things he wished he had done differently. He regrets banning loved ones from attending relatives’ funerals, for instance.
But he insisted he had got many things right. ‘I was told there’s nothing we can do about it…the NHS will be overwhelmed. But we protected the NHS.’
He refuses to apologise for losing his cool when interrupted by BBC Radio’s Nick Robinson, pleading tetchily: ‘Let me speak!’
‘The thing that gets to me is the injustice,’ he said of Robinson’s constant interruptions. ‘If people are being unfair I do find that frustrating.’
He conspicuously failed to deny reports he had protested to Johnson, saying ‘give me a break!’, in a row concerning the Government’s virus handling.
Some of Johnson’s allies have always been suspicious of Hancock, a Remainer and member of the David Cameron/George Osborne inner circle despised by Johnson.
In last year’s leadership contest, Hancock attacked Johnson’s call to prorogue Parliament to force through Brexit and sided with journalist Charlotte Edwardes who said Johnson groped her at a dinner party.
When Hancock’s own leadership challenge flopped, he shamelessly backed the hot favourite Johnson.
Spectator editor Fraser Nelson has said Tory critics see him as a ‘sycophant who crawls up to anyone who is in power.’
Hancock responded without blushing: ‘Guilty as charged. I’m a team player.’ Piers Morgan has called him a ‘pathetic, pious, hapless, hypocrite, bossy school prefect.’ ‘I can’t deny the last,’ roared Hancock.
Not everyone is out to get him.
He proudly pointed out that the smart John Lewis blue tie he wore for the interview was sent to him by a constituent who assumed from his regular appearances at Downing Street press conferences in a pink tie that he didn’t have any other.
Hancock said his first lesson in politics and economics came when his mother Shirley and step-father Bob’s high-tech family firm in his native Cheshire faced bankruptcy after a client failed to pay a bill on time.
A self-confessed geek, he wrote computer codes for the firm from the age of 15.
‘Every day we hoped the cheque would come and when the postman came I’d run from the breakfast table. I can still hear the noise of that letter box.
‘When the cheque came, mum took it straight to the bank and the business survived. It made me ask how can a perfectly successful business go under because of something completely out of their control.
Spectator editor Fraser Nelson (left) has said Tory critics see Matt Hancock as a ‘sycophant who crawls up to anyone who is in power’. Piers Morgan has called him a ‘pathetic, pious, hapless, hypocrite, bossy school prefect’
‘It is why my heart goes out to businesses so badly hit by this crisis.’
Having barely had a day off for five months, he is keen to have time with his own children.
He was amused when his daughter asked for help with her home school studies only to discover it was an essay on politics.
More improbably he also worked as a schoolboy ‘horse catcher’ at the Grand National in nearby Liverpool.
‘My job was to stand next to a big jump and if a jockey fell off, catch the horse. One year I gave a jockey a leg up and he finished the race. They changed the rules after that!’
The naughtiest thing he will admit to is fibbing as a student sports radio reporter in his Oxford days.
Due to report on an England rugby match at Twickenham, he overslept and filed his reports watching it on TV in a pub in Reading, while pretending to be at the game.
‘I went into a phone box opposite the pub and said ‘here I am, live at Twickenham, as the teams take the field, the crowd enthusiastic on their feet in applause!’ he laughs, imitating a commentator’s patter.
It’s not the most recent ‘naughty’ thing he has done, however. As we discussed his attempts to curb drunken scenes in pubs today, he confessed to having got drunk himself just six months ago at Christmas, declining to give further details.
But Hancock pledged 100 per cent support for police chiefs who are tasked with stopping ‘Super Saturday’ leading to riotous behaviour.
Asked if judges and magistrates should take a tough line with booze-fuelled idiots who start pub fights, he said: ‘Of course, the law is there for a reason.’
When Hancock in 2012 took part in a charity horse race at Newmarket, the home of British flat racing in his West Suffolk constituency, he got tips on tactics from top jockey Frankie Dettori. ‘I was told to tuck in behind who I thought would win, pull out at two furlongs and kick on.’
It sounds like a metaphor for his political rise, I suggested.
‘I won the race,’ he grinned.
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