“Have you apologised for being late for a meeting, blaming the traffic when you’ve been late for every meeting and appointment you’ve ever had in your entire life? Perchance have you phoned in sick for work on the hottest day of the year with the sound of a throbbing bassline in the background when you’re quite audibly on drugs? If you can relate to any of these stories, there’s a high chance you are completely and utterly at it. And if you say you can’t relate, guess what? You’re the most at it.”

Those are the words of Scottish comedian and musician Max Raskin, who creates online skits centred around a simple theme: that everyone is at it. And those were the words ringing in my ears yesterday as I watched Health Secretary Matt Hancock on the Andrew Marr Show describe handing a £180 million PPE deal to a former Conservative MP as “perfectly reasonable” after defending the Government’s delay in adding India to the travel red list despite the emergence there of a new and prolific Covid strain. You’re at it, mate.

Let’s start with the PPE goggles, which Hancock evidently hopes we’re all wearing a rose-tinted pair of. When ex-Tory MP Brooks Newmark – who, by the way, resigned in 2014 after he was caught sending sexually explicit photos to a journalist – emailed Hancock last year with a bid for a PPE deal on behalf of a dog food company (naturally), Hancock’s aide forwarded the proposal with haste to the procurement team, calling it “excellent” and requesting it be dealt with “urgently”.

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Marr asked if this was appropriate given the bid came from a former colleague, to which Hancock said "yes". He denied granting Newmark special treatment by fast-tracking his request before stressing he had nothing to do with the signing of the contracts and simply “pinged it on” to those who did. You know how it is: you’re sitting in the office, bored, when a sleazy guy you used to work with gets in touch to see if the organisation you work for has a spare few hundred mill’ to drop on his side hustle. Of course you ping it on – and why not add a ringing endorsement for good measure!

Adding insult to injury was the NHS badge glinting on Hancock’s lapel, when it’s clear the Tories care only about the economic health of this country. How else could the delay in imposing travel sanctions between the UK and India be explained, if not by considering that BoJo was keen as mustard to fly there later that month to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

As Boris sat on his hands, at least 20,000 people travelled from India to the UK before the brakes were applied. Perhaps he was distracted by more pressing matters, like which shade of gold wallpaper would work best in his flat or what private Caribbean island he’ll fly to next.

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When asked by Marr as to whether he regretted this delay and the consequences that unfolded in giving the new variant a chance to stretch its legs over here, an exasperated Hancock said this was the type of “Captain Hindsight question” that had been thrown at him throughout the pandemic. Wow, Matt. If you’re so fed up with being asked to reflect on the shoulda-woulda-couldas, why don’t you sharpen those foresight skills? You have your pick of mistakes to learn from.

Hancock defended the delay by saying there was little known about the existence of the Indian strain of Covid to begin with. But surely the fact that India was being ravaged by a catastrophic surge in coronavirus infections – much more than Bangladesh and Pakistan, which were placed on the red list in early April – should have been enough to raise alarm bells? Marr presented Hancock with a bar chart showing how much higher the number of Covid-19 infections were in India at that point compared to Bangladesh and India. “This data is the wrong way of looking at it,” Hancock said, before explaining to us silly little laypeople that actually, according to his data, three times as many people arriving in the UK from Bangladesh and Pakistan were testing positive for Covid at the border compared to those coming from India. Even he didn’t sound entirely convinced as he trotted out this line.

Putting the moron in oxymoron, Hancock went on to describe the Indian strain of Covid-19 as being “widespread in small numbers” in the UK which is why he’s confident for restrictions to ease in many parts of the country today. In his view, the best way to tackle any rise in infection is to firstly step up the rate of vaccination and testing and to secondly rely on people being “careful” in how they exercise their new freedoms.

It’s typical of the Conservative rhetoric that has permeated this pandemic. Here are the rules, but if you follow them and fall ill then it’s actually your fault for taking the guidance too literally. Yes, said Hancock, many people are allowed to eat inside a restaurant, “but it’s still safer to dine outdoors than in”. And yes, hugging is permitted for much of the country now, but we should remember it’s safest to do so with someone who has had two jabs. We all must take “personal responsibility” – because that way, the Tories don’t have to take responsibility for anything at all.

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