Toe-curling footage of Matt Hancock playing cricket in his office has re-emerged in the wake of claims he aped being a star batsman at the height of the pandemic.
A former top official this week revealed how, in early 2020, the then health secretary claimed he was ‘loving’ the responsibility of leading the NHS during the worst crisis in its history.
Helen MacNamara, who was deputy cabinet secretary between 2020 and 2021, also described how Mr Hancock took up a batsman’s stance in Downing Street during the bizarre incident.
She claimed he told her: ‘They bowl them at me, I knock them away.’
In her evidence to the Covid Inquiry yesterday, Ms MacNamara said she had included the anecdote in her witness statement as it showed the ‘nuclear levels’ of overconfidence displayed by Mr Hancock during the Covid pandemic.
She also told the inquiry Mr Hancock had a questionable record on the truth and often insisted things were ‘absolutely fine’ when they were ‘very, very far from fine’.
Footage of Matt Hancock playing cricket in his office has re-emerged in the wake of claims he had mimed being a star batsman at the height of the Covid pandemic
Filmed in May 2019, less than 10 months before Britain was plunged into the first Covid lockdown, Mr Hancock was seen hogging both bat and ball during the game
The video, posted to mark the start of that summer’s cricket world cup, ends with Mr Hancock bemoaning how the ball has been lost behind a radiator
The footage attracted a series of negative comments from social media users at the time. One described it as ‘tragic’, while others compared it to TV shows Alan Partridge and The Office
In the wake of Ms MacNamara’s testimony, a social media video of Mr Hancock playing cricket with staff in his Department of Health office has been unearthed.
Filmed in May 2019, less than 10 months before Britain was plunged into the first Covid lockdown, Mr Hancock was seen hogging both bat and ball during the game.
In footage that focuses solely on the then Cabinet minister, as his staff stand awkwardly around the edge of the room, Mr Hancock is shown attempting forward defensive and reverse sweep shots.
He was also filmed taking catches, including one leaping attempt that sees him throw himself to the floor and nearly collide with a white sofa.
The video, posted to mark the start of that summer’s cricket world cup, ends with Mr Hancock bemoaning how the ball has been lost behind a radiator.
It attracted a series of negative comments from social media users at the time. One described it as ‘tragic’, while others compared it to TV shows Alan Partridge and The Office.
Ms MacNamara’s evidence to the Covid inquiry on Wednesday came after Mr Hancock was revealed to have been branded a ‘c***’ and a ‘proven liar who nobody believes’ in foul-mouthed WhatsApp messages sent by former No 10 aide Dominic Cummings.
Appearing before the inquiry, Ms MacNamara said there was a pattern of ‘being reassured that something was absolutely fine’ by Mr Hancock before discovering it was ‘very, very far from fine’.
She said the ex-health secretary ‘time and time again’ without ‘any ambiguity’ told fellow Cabinet ministers that plans were in place during the pandemic, which did not turn out to be the case.
Andrew O’Connor KC, counsel to the inquiry, asked: ‘Would it be fair to say you were surprised, let down, when you realised that what he had said wasn’t actually true?’
‘I was surprised, yes,’ Ms MacNamara replied.
In her witness statement to the inquiry, the former top official said the ‘the usual systems of governance in Whitehall rely on people being truthful’ and suggested that people working in Government did not trust Mr Hancock.
Asked whether she believed Mr Hancock was not saying things that were true, she told the inquiry: ‘It’s definitely the view in Government. I think it’s fair to say it’s what we experienced.
‘So that what was said in a meeting as actually being under control or going to be delivered, or something that was fine, that then subsequently, a matter of days sometimes, or sometimes weeks later, that we’d discover that that wasn’t in fact the case.’
Ms MacNamara’s witness statement also described how she once asked Mr Hancock if he needed any extra support in April 2020 after he had recently recovered from Covid and returned to Downing Street.
Mr O’Connor read from the statement: ‘He reassured me that he was “loving responsibility” and to demonstrate this took up a batsman’s stance outside the Cabinet room and said “they bowl them at me, I knock them away”.’
Quizzed about why she included the anecdote in her statement, Ms MacNamara told the inquiry: ‘I’m trying to explain just how jarring some of that was. It does partly go back to my point about nuclear levels of confidence that were being deployed, that I do think is a problem. It really stuck with me this moment.’
She added: ‘It was important to me at the time, so I felt it was important to include in this way. It’s more a point about confidence than anything else.’
Asked whether she meant confidence or overconfidence, Ms MacNamara replied: ‘Yes, overconfidence.’
Mr O’Connor said: ‘You were trying to engage with Mr Hancock about the incredibly onerous scope and impact of the decisions he was going to have to be making, the impact on the lives of everyone in the country of those decisions. And he thought he was playing cricket.’
Ms MacNamara replied: ‘I assumed it would be weighing heavy on his shoulders. He may well tell you that it was and he felt it was important to project something else instead.
‘I don’t know, I just know how I experienced that.’
Helen MacNamara, one of Britain’s highest-ranking officials during Covid, revealed how Mr Hancock said he was ‘loving’ the responsibility of leading the NHS during the pandemic crisis
Mr Hancock was criticised for displaying ‘nuclear levels’ of overconfidence during the coronavirus outbreak
Quizzed about why she included the cricket anecdote in her witness statement, Ms MacNamara told the inquiry: ‘I’m trying to explain just how jarring some of that was’
Ms MacNamara also suggested in her witness statement to the inquiry that people working in Government did not trust Mr Hancock
Mr Hancock was revealed to have been branded a ‘c***’ and a ‘proven liar who nobody believes’ in foul-mouthed WhatsApp messages sent by former No 10 aide Dominic Cummings
Ms MacNamara, who was in charge of propriety and ethics while a senior civil servant, was issued with a police fine following the Met Police’s ‘Partygate’ investigation into illegal lockdown gatherings in Downing Street.
She attended a leaving do for a No 10 official in June 2020 – when social gatherings of two or more people indoors were banned – and provided a karaoke machine for the event.
In his own evidence to the inquiry this week, Mr Cummings described how he had urged then prime minister Boris Johnson to sack Mr Hancock in the summer of 2020.
‘In my opinion this was one of his very worst and most unforgivable decisions,’ Mr Cummings said.
‘The PM knew and expressed often in the summer not just what a terrible job Hancock had done but how dishonest he was.
‘If we’d replaced Hancock before August then things like rapid testing would have been smoother, planning would have been more honest and effective, and thousands would have survived.’
A spokesperson for Matt Hancock said: ‘Mr Hancock has supported the inquiry throughout and will respond to all questions when he gives his evidence.’