Isabel Hardman

Talk to the Hancock because the face ain’t listening

Talk to the Hancock because the face ain’t listening
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Matt Hancock was in a rather sassy mood when he took tonight’s coronavirus briefing. It was obvious that he was not going to get as much attention for his announcement that the government has secured another 60 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine for an autumn booster programme, and he came armed with a strategy for dealing with the media focus on the Prime Minister’s conduct.

That strategy was to tell journalists that he wasn’t even going to answer their questions. When the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg asked whether a government minister should resign if they’d broken rules on party funding, he replied:

Given that this is a coronavirus press conference, you won't be surprised that I'm not going to add to the answers the prime minister has already given very extensive questioning.

He also told other journalists that he would give their questions a ‘miss’ when they strayed onto the same territory. As we discussed on Coffee House Shots, the problem with Johnson’s refusal to give full answers to the questions he has been asked is that it just prolongs the story. 

The benefit for Hancock of his approach to the briefing this evening is that he is not on the record as backing what the Prime Minister has or hasn’t done. But neither is he responsible for moving the story on at all.

Written byIsabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

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