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Matt Hancock saves the world


IT IS reported in the Daily Mail that Matt Hancock is planning to write a ‘How I Won the Covid War’ book on his ‘heroic’ role in the UK vaccine campaign. The former health secretary is said to be in talks with HarperCollins over a blow-by-blow account of ‘heated’ lockdown rows with ministers, aides, scientists and medics. TCW Defending Freedom has acquired a copy of Hancock’s first draft . . .

It was a chilly morning at the end of January 2020. I was sitting at the breakfast table wife my wife Martha and my three lovely children. As I was about to dunk the last soldier into my soft-boiled egg, the phone rang: it was the PM.

‘Matt, the balloon’s gone up! The pandemic has arrived. We need you in Downing Street – and pronto!’

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. I’d had an inkling that this might happen and, prescient as I am, I had asked Parker, my driver, to sleep in the ministerial Jag outside the house the previous night. With my last eggy soldier dangling from my lips, I grabbed my red box and waved goodbye to my family. My moment of destiny had arrived – as Brutus so rightly remarked, ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men . . .’

The seriousness of the situation demanded a police escort and with sirens blaring we made it in less than an hour from my home in Suffolk to Westminster.

An ashen-faced and clearly distraught PM was waiting near the sturdy reinforced door of Number Ten.

‘Oh, Matt, thank God you made it! We’ve been trying to make sense of the Influenza Preparedness Plan but you are the only one who can make it work.’

I was of course intimate with that document (my dedicated assistant Gina had seen to that), but it was clear to me that those recommendations were wholly inadequate to deal with a crisis that was about to befall the nation.

Within minutes of my arrival I sprang into action. It was clear that Dominic Cummings, the PM’s resident ‘Svengali’, had no idea how to act under pressure. I make no apology for commandeering his office, confiscating his white board and tearing down the flipchart paper that littered the walls. By the time Gina had brought me a latte and Penguin, I had assembled my team and was ready to go.

Within minutes I had phoned the world’s major vaccine manufacturers. I gave them the gene sequence of the virus kindly provided by Mr Wu Han at the Chinese embassy and ordered them to get to work. I told them we needed at least five hundred million doses, cost didn’t matter and they wouldn’t be liable if there were any side-effects.

I then phoned a variety of friends and trusted associates whom I knew would be able to help out with the massive amount of Personal Protective Equipment that the gallant heroes in the NHS would need. Some of those I contacted had little or no experience of delivering this type of specialist material, but they were people who could get things done. Time was of the essence: as the minutes passed I could see the deadly virus was wending its evil way across the land ever more quickly.

I had the brilliant insight and in-depth knowledge to know that our glorious NHS hospitals were not fully prepared for a pandemic. By midday I had spoken to every NHS Trust in the country and told them to clear the decks for the imminent arrival of the untold millions of Covid sufferers. It was clear that the elderly were blocking scarce beds and would be better off in care homes, where they could spend their twilight hours in peace and solitude.

But even more capacity was needed. I pondered long and hard on this problem as Gina warmed my lunchtime Pot Noodle King Original Curry in the office microwave. As I feasted on her culinary masterpiece, I closed my eyes and asked myself what the original NHS angel, Florence Nightingale, would have suggested. As if by divine providence the answer came. We needed yet more hospital beds. I put aside my gourmet delight and immediately ordered the construction of seven new hospitals to be named after the inspiring woman herself.

As I left my desk to take my first well-earned toilet break of the day, I could sense that my fellow ministers were observing me with a mixture of awe, envy and wonderment. This was my first indication of the battles I would have to fight with my colleagues in the coming weeks as I fought to save the nation, and the terror, taunts and tantrums that lay ahead on my personal Via Dolorosa.

I spent the afternoon designing intensive care equipment, advising the pharmaceutical companies on production methods and devising cost-effective test and trace systems for those likely to be in proximity to the virus.

As day turned to night and a drizzle descended on Westminster, I forced down a Tesco tuna and cucumber sandwich before starting work with Gina on the coding and algorithms for what was to become the NHS Covid Pass.

As Big Ben struck midnight, I thanked Gina for her sterling efforts, and made my weary way to the ministerial car where Parker was ready to ferry me home to my lovely but sadly neglected family. I was worn out but content. My actions that day had saved the lives of millions of innocent souls. As the limousine swept through Trafalgar Square it occurred to me that in the not-too-distant future my statue would be a permanent fixture on the fourth plinth.

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John Ellwood
John Ellwood
John is the father of four beautiful girls. He is, thankfully, not knowingly related to Tobias Ellwood. ‘My Dear Friends . . . ’ a compilation of many of John’s contributions to TCW Defending Freedom is available in paperback and on Kindle.

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