Violence is never the answer, even when Matt Hancock is involved. Yesterday, the secretary of state for health and social care and, apparently, aspiring Littlewoods model, visited Leeds General Infirmary, where Labour supporters, in a paid hit funded by Momentum, took it upon themselves to batter him and his aide to death. The A&E department, not having any space left for their brutalised corpses, had to lay them down on the floor, with the children. Boris Johnson is expected to lay a wreath upside down on the tattered remains of his body later today.
Of course, I’m reading this information from BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg’s tweets, and choosing not to double check it. No, don’t make me watch the video. I’m not going to watch the video. Matt Hancock is dead! I will take your phone and put it in my pocket, so help me! Let’s get Brexit done!
To catch you up: a week ago, a child with suspected pneumonia suffered from sub-standard hospital care. Sorry to bring it back to the root cause like that, but in the hysteria of a cyclist standing quite near to Hancock’s aide and shouting, it has been a little lost in the fuss: four-year-old Jack Williment-Barr, admitted to A&E and facing a huge waiting time, was forced to sleep on the floor on a small pile of coats while waiting for a bed. A photo of him, asleep and ill, went suitably viral after it was on the front page of the Daily Mirror; the hospital chiefs apologised, Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson went full tinfoil hat by tweeting that the photo was “faked” (the tweet has been deleted), and in a bizarre interview with ITV News, Johnson – instead of saying, I don’t know, “Well Leeds General Infirmary is one of the six hospitals we have confirmed funding for, so this shouldn’t happen again” – instead of saying that, which would be normal, he … took … the journalist’s … phone … and … put it … in his … pocket?
Enter Hancock, who had to take time away from staring ominously into his phone and saying how excited he is, to go and clean up the mess. A common theme of the election cycle so far has been “senior Tories tucking their tie into their shirt, putting their hands on their hips, and apologising to nurses”, so Hancock dutifully did all that, said he was sorry, remembered to actually invoke the LGI funding boost in his apology, and nipped away home. So all that’s done and dusted. No more drama here.
Kuenssberg, Robert Peston, Tom Newton Dunn and Paul Brand were otherwise briefed, though. “So Matt Hancock was despatched to Leeds Hospital, to try to sort out mess,” Kuenssberg tweeted to her 1.1 million followers, with that famed BBC impartiality we all delight in paying our licence fees for. This was followed by: “hearing Labour activists scrambled to go + protest, and it turned nasty when they arrived – one of them punched Hancock’s adviser”. Peston et al backed the story up, everyone spent a half hour wondering who, who possibly could have turned to violence and battered bloody the simple and innocent aide of Matt Hancock – don’t punch him, mate! He’s just there to take the harbourside thirst traps! – and then the video of the incident emerged, and. Ah:
Actually not that violent, when you look at it, is it? It’s actually quite a lot more like … someone not looking where they’re going and walking into someone’s finger, really, isn’t it? I don’t know violence too intimately but I think a proper decking looks a bit different to that. It took a while, but all the “Matt Hancock’s Aide Was Assaulted in Daylight” truthers dutifully put their tail between their legs, burped out a quiet apology, and carried on like nothing happened. “Labour says Tories have ‘resorted to bare faced lying’ over the punch” Kuenssberg tweeted, with the mild and neutral detachment of someone I can only assume doesn’t read their own tweets, “that turned out not to be a punch after all in the footage from the hospital”. And then, hours late to the party, and after everyone else had seen the video which showed what really happened, Hancock added: “Today saw concerted attempt by Labour activists to intimidate me and my team. This is completely unacceptable at any time, particularly around an election. We will not be daunted. We must defeat this aggressive intimidation.” Matt, someone on a bicycle shouted at you because you let a child sleep on the floor then your mate walked into his finger. Calm down.
But does anyone remember the … oh, right, yeah, the child with pneumonia on the floor, the phone in the pocket, yeah. Say what you want about fake news and the hide-in-plain-sight propagation thereof – senior Tory aides briefing political editors from the BBC and ITV with news that is almost instantly proved wrong – but the storm around the punch that never happened has quite handily drowned out all those bad headlines about the bad things that actually did, so fair play, I suppose. Another CCHQ masterstroke.
Let me get this straight: Love Actually, a warm-centred Christmas film that came out 16 years ago that is quite often about men stalking women like prey and Alan Rickman cheating on his wife is good, yeah? And that’s why for some reason politicians keep making campaign videos ripping off the central and worst scene? It started with Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s incumbent candidate for Tooting, south London, who in late November did an “Election, Actually” video that I chose not to shed light on at the time because I hated it. Weeks later, Johnson did almost the exact same one, though ended his with a slightly-too-sexual-for-my-tastes finishing grunt of, “Enough! Enough.” And now David Gauke – and I don’t want to criticise him too hard because by the looks of him he’s very tidy and he really could finish me with one punch, much like a Labour supporter might demolish a Hancock aide – did a much lazier version where he just held up a single sign in front of Amber Rudd outside a Laura Ashley in Hertfordshire. Watch another film, people!
New Tory boy
Repetitive though they might be, the various TV debates this year have been a fascinating glimpse into the squad depth of each of the major British political parties: who, other than the famous ones, is actually in them? Newest Conservative on the radar is Robert Jenrick, a sort of shaved teddy bear who is Newark MP and secretary of state for housing, who flailed his way through the Question Time: under 30s debate by saying easily disprovable things about legal aid spending and bus routes that all got fact-checked to within an inch of their life on Twitter about five seconds after he said them. Best was this, though: “Is Robert Jenrick your fault, @bernardtrafford?” TES deputy editor Ed Dorrell tweeted, mid-debate, to which the previously unknown Big Bern replied: “It is true that I was his headteacher.” No matter how bad a day you’re having, no matter how stretched and tired and anxious you’re feeling amid all this, at least know your former headteacher isn’t out there, owning your arse on Twitter.
• Joel Golby is the author of Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant