Matt Hancock book exclusive

Matt Hancock’s How I Won the COVID War, out soon: a thrilling read. Page after page of revelations: ‘If I were to get on top of this one, I’d have to work fast. I took lessons from Neil Ferguson’.

‘I was going to get down to it – if it took all-night sessions with staff, I was up for it.’ ‘It was a fearsome projection: I was facing a massive hump in the summer.’

‘It was vital that people stay at home unless needed: even my wife could no longer join me at the office in the evening, and I had police posted just in case.’

‘This is an international problem – I was discussing Uganda into the small hours. How I kept it up, I’ll never know.’

The book is not out for a few months, but the extracts are revealing. Getting through on tiny scraps of data, bearing a hunch and carrying it through, following tiny clues, hacking phones, bribing publishers and getting the ghost-writer drunk  – that’s how exclusives are made. What I found was less exciting than I thought: here was Matt, plain Matt Hancock, just as pointless and self-absorbed as he always seemed. If you want drama and fantasy, you have what he thought of himself.

Celebrate COP26

To celebrate the opening of COP26 we’re holding a big village bonfire: every family bring a  sack of coal and we’ll build it high and wide.

We’ve got burgers and a hog roast laid on, and to mark the internationalism of the event, food from all over the world.

There is so much to be done that everyone can see our commitment. I flew home from Provence for this, and friends and neighbours drove in from their holiday villas. We sent teams around the village to help neighbours to dig up their front gardens and lay down concrete so they have somewhere to charge an electric car, when they get one.

Glasgow holds the hopes of the world, and no one has ever said that before – so we have a festival of Glasgow culture in the local pubs, and sing-songs with the music familiar from the city – the children have learnt this week how ‘Ye cannae shove yer granny aff a bus’, while the village choir have been practising their Glaswegian choruses concluding “Well the famine is over; why don’t you go home?

As we all roll home, no famine in sight after we’ve roasted a herd on the green, we can be satisfied that this one night we have signalled our virtue so high the fire could be seen from space.  Those meeting in Glasgow are our last best hope for peace (or is that Babylon 5?). I hold in my mind the motto which this village has always stood by: ‘Any excuse for a good nosh-up’.

Postscript

That you to all who took part, and who made it such a memorable night. We went away maybe not with a wider appreciation of issues but certainly wider personally. That is what it is all about.

Thank you also to the Fire Brigade for joining in the fun after you had finished putting out the trees and the grass, and The Lodge. Without you, we would have a less of a village this week, and would not have had the bass section of the singalong. The vigour of your singing will long be with us, and your enthusiasm notwithstanding that the song for Glasgow was not a familiar modern piece: it is old but it is beautiful.

See also

Books

Sir Keir Kneeler: speech in full

‘Conference, I look about me and ask the same thing you do: What am I doing here?

Never underestimate the challenges this party faces but also its successes: once we looked down at the Liberal Democrats as weirdoes but now we have bested them in that.

What I want to say to you is this: short sentences. Just a few words. Not even a verb.

I’ll start by some unconvincing populism by cheering the football results: Arsenal 3 – 1 Tottenham – and I know how you all hate Spurs fans.

We all have failings. I have a confession to make: after 14 years of marriage, I still don’t know what a woman is.

Now fill in random personal details here to make me sound human, with unnatural emphasis in places to sound angry.  It might be as interesting as your cousin’s slide-show last Christmas, but we have a long time slot to fill in and nothing to say. Then sound humble. Was I meant to say that out loud?

We will not always see eye-to-eye. I know I stand here as leader looking out over a different party:  I’m not a raging, hate-filled communist like most of you; I don’t beat up journalists in corridors like most of you; I don’t hate Jews like most of you. Even so, there are things that we in this movement share – we all agree our policies should target ordinary working people, and I am ready to pull the trigger.

We have all enjoyed the lettuce, gherkin, bacon and tomato sandwiches at lunch, the only sort we agreed.

I have worked in public service for most of my life. Baroness Scotland appointed me as DPP, and although I never prosecuted her, as head of the Crown Prosecution Service I learned the significance of those three those three words that appeared on my desk: ‘Complete’ emphasises that we must finish what we set out to do; ‘Utter’ shows the need to pursue things to the furthermost; ‘Pillock’ is me.

If we are who we say we are, we believe the government is magic, so we can blame Boris for everything from the weather to Tottenham’s fluke goal. If our party believes any principle, it is that the Tories are to blame. When we get power in our hands, we will ensure, as many of you have affirmed, there will be everything in the state, nothing outside the state, and nothing against the state – that is the Labour way.

So far I have not laid down any actual policy nor any practical way to achieve anything Conference has demanded. Let us keep it that way.  My watchwords will be Work, Care, Equality, Security – all values which we have done our utmost to extinguish.

I think of these values as my heirloom. The word ‘loom’, from which that idea comes, is another word for ‘tool’; and that is what I am.

 

An interview with Greta

Meeting Greta Thunberg in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow was a fascinating experience. We discussed the project over meatballs and I was impressed by her single-minded approach – she would not be deviated by a millimetre.

Her English, by the way, is pretty good for a foreigner. A learned professor I read observed that Swedish and English are barely different from each other after a few sound changes (I don’t know if he had made a lifelong study of Germanic linguistics, or he had just been watching dodgy films.) The scheme she laid out though could be followed by both of us.

It all seemed too complicated to my unfamiliar eyes, but the way Greta laid it all out made it look achievable for the first time. All the pieces I would be tempted to gloss over, she grasped the significance of each one and ensured the pieces joined in exact alignment. ‘Every dowel to its hole’ as they say in Swedish apparently (which is enough to get you cancelled on the whackiest of  campuses, or the Guardian).

The complex became drawn together into a logical whole, a thing almost of beauty. She spoke the minimum to get it all together and would not be distracted even for a moment. I could not ask about her family, art, food, music, her school friends – we were here for a reason, as she made very clear, and she would not speak of anything else until she was done.

(I asked later as diplomatically as I could why she was not yet back in school. She has a withering scowl. Little girls can be like that.)

By the time she had finished I was all admiration. She might not know much about science or geography, but I sincerely admire her, because that was the neatest flat-pack chest of drawers I have ever seen built. No wonder they want he at the conference, with all those ‘Ingolf’ chairs they will need built.

Books

MP: vital importance of my Bill

One MP chosen in the Private Members ballot explained the vital importance of his Bill introduced last week.

The MP, whose name we have already forgotten says the Virtue (Signalling) Bill 2021 will ensure that the government must “give property priority to getting my name in the local paper”. The unnamed MP says that he (or she; we forget) sees in the Bill a vital opportunity to put on a serious face in the newspaper, and may lead even to two minutes on the regional news.

Taking to us earlier, the MP explained that the subject of the Bill is one of vital interest to a key demographic amongst swing voters in the constituency without hurting anyone else, and by demanding that the Government must take action to do something it is already doing, it will ensure he (or she) takes the credit for the success of the campaign.

“There are”, he (or she) said, “people in my constituency for which this subject is a concern and they both need to see that I am on the case and I am on their side thinking about it, whatever I said to them that morning in the library last Saturday when I was tired. They say the subject of the Bill is impossible: but what I always say about the ‘impossible’ is that it is the only thing worth going for. If there is a danger that the Government will agree then I will not get all the air time I deserve, but if it is actually so impossible that they refuse, then I can be seen to hold their feet to the flame, on page 5 of the local free paper.”

This MP is not the only Member who was fortunate in the private members’ ballot: twenty MPs won the time to speak in the House of Commons on their chosen subject. Each one has been practising his serious face for the news. Each one will be hoping, against experience that their Bill will get through and be chosen to appear on the news for two minutes just before the weather. Rivalry is intense.