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Sketch: Matt Hancock goes to Hollywood

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Matt Hancock goes to Hollywood

Matt Hancock, ever the shrewd political player, took inspiration from Contagion for the UK’s vaccine rollout.

The 2011 film shows doctors, government officials and the public battling a global pandemic of a novel virus originating from bats. One can see the similarities.

In an interview with LBC, Hancock revealed the “huge row about the order of priority” for the vaccine in Contagion proved to him that the UK needed to be prepared once one was available.

It is good to know he learnt the importance of planning. Who knows, the UK might have ended up rolling the vaccine out on the fly if he’d not taken those 106 minutes to watch it.

“I wouldn’t say that that film was my primary source of advice on this,” he said, putting down his popcorn. That’s a relief. Imagine being in a room surrounded by leading experts and advisers saying one thing, only to completely ignore them in favour of following the plot of the last film you had seen.

But then, fellow cabinet minister Michael Gove did once suggest people had “had enough of experts” so perhaps that scenario is not as far-fetched as you’d like to believe.

Hancock went on to demonstrate excellent clairvoyant skills: “I knew that when the vaccine came good, and I always had faith that it would, the demand for it would be huge and we would need to be ready to vaccinate every adult in the country.”

“I wasn’t going to settle for less,” he added, standing up confidently as the credits rolled.

“I was insisting that we keep the British public – and all the British public – safe, as my primary responsibility as the UK health secretary is to the health of the nation.”

The man has read his job title. He probably believed sitting down to watch Contagion was absolutely vital for handling everything, only second to the well-thumbed copy of Pandemics for Dummies on his nightstand.

With this revelation, at least we know the UK would also be prepared if a pre-historic overgrown lizard chose to attack or if a giant ape, unwittingly unleashed by an eccentric billionaire, was climbing the Shard.

Perhaps this reliance on the big screen for advice is also why Robert Jenrick did not intervene to stop the first deep coal mine from being built in the UK for thirty years. Jenrick knows the next Ice Age will be all fun japes with an animated sloth and clumsy saber-tooth squirrel.

What else could be learnt from Hollywood? How to create slimy yet satisfying meals from insects when faced with food insecurity? How to scare children and channel their terrified screams into electricity to power the whole country? How displacement caused by extreme weather events can be resolved by tapping together ruby red slippers?

Perhaps if the UK Government had thought to go find some courage, a heart and a brain, we wouldn’t be in the same mess we’re in with COVID now.

Let’s hope the Scottish secretary doesn’t take his advice from Braveheart in responding to calls for independence. That didn’t seem to end well for either Mel Gibson or Patrick McGoohan.

But there has been something a bit The Thick of It about efforts to save the Union recently.

Downing Street apparently thought about moving Prince Edward from Surrey to Edinburgh to help quash rising support for independence – though presumably not in the same way as his namesake King Edward I, also known as the Hammer of the Scots.

Then Boris Johnson made a trip up to a factory in Livingston to highlight collaboration across the UK against COVID. Unfortunately, he seemed to have made the visit just days after several workers had tested positive.

Asked about it by Ian Blackford at PMQs, the Prime Minister replied: “Nobody raised that issue with me before or since.” Apart from, obviously, Blackford about ten seconds previously. 

Johnson continued: “It is my job to visit every part of this country. Nothing and no one is going to stop me.” Least of all a deadly virus, apparently.

Of course, he also caused a stir while on that trip by suggesting “endless talk” about a referendum on Scottish independence was “completely irrelevant now to the concerns of most people”.

He said: “You’re going on and on about a referendum, and we don’t actually know what that referendum would set out to achieve. We don’t know what the point of it would be.” Well, not to state the obvious here, but I think the point would be for Scotland to be independent.

He later clarified he meant there was no “clear description of what the constitutional situation will be after that referendum” which is a bit ironic, coming from the party of Brexit means Brexit. Perhaps Independence means Independence. Someone should make a film about that – ‘Freedom’.

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