Keir Starmer just rallied to protect snivelling Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock on Marr and Keir Starmer on Ridge
Steve Topple

Matt Hancock needn’t have worried about the Labour leader savaging him on Sunday 21 February’s political TV programmes. Because Keir Starmer completely let the embattled health secretary off the hook.

Hancock: flouting his ‘legal obligations’

The Canary reported on Saturday 20 February about a High Court ruling. As it noted:

The Government is required by law to publish a “contract award notice” within 30 days of the award of any contracts for public goods or services worth more than £120,000.

But the Good Law Project and a cross-party group of MPs said the Tories didn’t do this. And a judge agreed with them. He said:

There is now no dispute that, in a substantial number of cases… [Hancock] breached his legal obligation to publish contract award notices within 30 days of the award of contracts.

There is also no dispute that… [Hancock] failed to publish redacted contracts in accordance with the transparency policy.

So, were the Sunday 21 February political TV shows awash with calls for Hancock to quit? Of course not.

Starmer: let me wring my hands

First up was Labour leader Keir Starmer on Sophy Ridge on Sunday. Moments before, the host asked Hancock if he should resign. “No”, was his predictable answer. So, Ridge posed the same question to the Labour leader. And again, ‘no’ was the predictable (but ridiculous) answer. Starmer said:

I don’t want to call for him to resign. I do think he’s wrong about the contracts. There’s been a lot of problems with the contracts: on transparency, on who the contracts have gone to, and there’s been a lot of wasted money. And I think that is a real cause for concern. But at the moment, at this stage of the pandemic, I want all government ministers working really hard to get us through this.

And he also said:

But I think at this stage, calling for people to resign is not what the public really wants to see.

Starmer thinks there have been “problems” with the PPE contracts. Feel free to shout “FFS” while you read this. Because there haven’t been “problems”. There’s been unlawful activity from a senior government minister.

Over on The Andrew Marr Show, and things weren’t much better.

Lammy: missed Starmer’s ‘hand-wringing’ memo

First up, and shadow justice secretary David Lammy was at odds with Starmer. He said that Hancock:

should publish the contracts, because the court has found it unlawful. He should cancel the… temporary scheme that he’s been using without any accountability or any transparency. He should come to parliament on Monday and explain what he’s going to do. It is outrageous, frankly… This is the sort of behaviour, giving contracts to your pub landlord and your best mate, that you would expect in a banana republic.

Ouch. Clearly Starmer’s ‘hand-wringing on the fence’ briefing hadn’t got to Lammy.

Then Hancock was on to defend his and the government’s actions.

Pulling on heart strings, disaster capitalist-style

The health secretary tried to pull on the public’s heart strings. He said his department, “in the height of the pandemic”, published contacts on average within 47 days. Hancock pleaded that:

my team were working seven days a week, often 18 hours a day, to get hold of the equipment that was saving lives.

Indeed: ‘getting hold of equipment’ from Hancock’s family friends; Tory Party-linked firms and donors, and a hotel carpet company. Yet the health secretary repeatedly used the ‘saving lives’ line to defend his and his government’s cronyism. Marr asked Hancock to apologise for breaching the law. He predictably didn’t. And Hancock even had the audacity to say the country should be “grateful” for his department doing its job.

But of course, Hancock whitewashing cronyism, exploiting a global crisis, and showing wilful negligence is all in a days work for our disaster capitalist-led government.

Featured image via the Telegraph – YouTube and Sky News – YouTube

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us