Westminster in shock consensus: Door Matt Hancock is a prat | John Crace

Meanwhile, good guy Tom Tug emerges as one of few sane Tories liked by not just his own party but Labour too

It won’t last. But for one day only, parliament found a few things on which all MPs could agree. The first was BBC local radio. The proposed cuts to services were an outrage and would devastate communities. Said absolutely everyone during an urgent question. Junior culture minister Julia Lopez could hardly believe her luck. All she had to do was nod her head, say how right everyone was, and that she would be sure to mention it to the director-general when she saw him next week. She didn’t even have to explain why the BBC might be financially stretched.

Next up was Tom Tugendhat. Rapidly emerging not just as one of the few sane Tories left in Westminster but as one of the great survivors. After years spent making an enemy of Boris Johnson as chair of the foreign affairs select committee, the one-nation Tugendhat had a brief few days in the limelight when he ran for the leadership of the Conservative party in the summer.

He did better than some – think Jeremy Hunt, Nadhim Zahawi and Sajid Javid – and made it to the first televised debate but was soon eliminated thereafter. Though probably as much to his surprise as everyone else’s, he then found himself in Liz Truss’s cabinet as security minister. Somehow Tugendhat survived. Principally by doing and saying absolutely nothing for the seven weeks Librium Liz was in government. In fact, no one is even quite sure if Tugendhat ever bothered to get out of bed. A bed-bound, elective mute was by far the best persona to navigate the halcyon Truss days.

His silence was rewarded with Rishi Sunak deciding that Tugendhat was one of the few Truss ministers worth retaining in his own cabinet. But eventually Tom Tug was forced out into the open for an urgent question on Chinese rogue police stations in the UK.

The great survivor Tom Tugendhat answers an urgent question.
The great survivor Tom Tugendhat answers an urgent question. Photograph: Jessica Parker/Parliament

And it all turned into a bit of a love-in. Because not only did the Tories like their man, but so did the opposition parties. In a parallel universe Tugendhat could easily have ended up as one of them. Politically he is far closer to the centre of the Labour party than he is to the Tory right.

The urgent question had been brought by Alicia Kearns, the new chair of the foreign affairs committee, so there was a lot of mutual congratulation. May I congratulate the former chair of the foreign affairs select committee on his new role and his first outing at the dispatch box. Oh, no, no, no. It should be me congratulating the honourable lady on becoming the new select committee chair. Oh no, no, no. After you. Oh, no, no, no. After you.

Iain Duncan Smith did point out that other countries had been a wee bit quicker to spot Chinese police stations in their own countries, but wasn’t going to blame Tom Tug as he was one of the good guys and couldn’t possibly be held responsible for any government failures. Alistair Carmichael came up with the most innovative solution. Why didn’t the UK set up a few police stations in China? Brilliant. Just send the Met to Beijing and make millions doing the Chinese for speeding.

Tugendhat wasn’t finished. Once the UQ was over he was up on his feet again for his first ministerial statement. On the creation of a taskforce to protect the country that he couldn’t really tell MPs about because if he did he would either have to kill them or himself. Everyone just nodded along.

Even Labour’s Yvette Cooper. She too agreed that Tom was a tremendous bloke. She just wanted to know what the government was doing about Johnson, Truss and Suella Braverman. All of whom appeared to have a bizarre approach to national security.

The Convict enjoyed hanging out with the KGB, Librium Liz managed to get her phone hacked, while Leaky Sue texted government secrets to her mates. One of whom, John Hayes, happened to be wandering around the chamber trying to tell anyone who would listen that he knew nothing about anything.

Tom Tug resisted the temptation to indulge Cooper. Rather he just said she had been informed on privy council terms how mind-blowingly stupid his colleagues were. So could he just leave it at that for now? It wasn’t going to serve any higher purpose to prove they were catastrophically unfit for office when they weren’t in the chamber. And that was that. Tugendhat could return to his Trappist wellness clinic.

But that wasn’t the end of the strange, almost magical, consensus. Because the biggest outbreak of agreement was around Door Matt Hancock. You couldn’t find anyone who didn’t think he was a complete prat. His vanity meets hubris in I’m a Celebrity.

Poor Matt. Delusional to the last. He wanted to connect with the real people, he said. And now was the time to do it. When the UK was still in complete chaos and no one would miss his valuable input as an MP. That much was true. It was a chance for the little people to hear about his fantastic new book, Pandemic Diaries.

The everyday story about a man promoted so far out of his depth he ended up killing loads of elderly Covid patients by sending them back to care homes. A man who paid the ultimate sacrifice just for daring to fall in love with someone else’s wife, leaving his own and being caught on CCTV snogging and groping like a teenager. A real life story of a man whose mid-life crisis led him to break the rules. He fought the law and the law won.

A man so needy he imagined the public might fall in love with him. A man so dim he couldn’t see he would end up being made to do the bushtucker trial night after night. A man destined to disappear into obscurity as he chokes on kangaroo scrotum. Westminster won’t miss him.


John Crace

The GuardianTramp

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