Tory MP Matthew Hancock accused of talking "nonsense" over missed Daybreak interview

Daybreak presenter says the MP, who overslept, was "much more than a minute late".

Given George Osborne's fondness for bemoaning those "sleeping off a life on benefits" there was amusement yesterday when it emerged that his former chief of staff, Matthew Hancock (read Rafael's profile of him here), missed an interview on ITV's Daybreak after he overslept. Hancock, who was due to discuss a new apprenticeship scheme for unemployed youths, was reportedly still in bed when his car arrived. The repentant Conservative MP wrote on Twitter: "I got 2 tv studio at 6:41 this am so missed 6:40 slot. You've got to be on time for work or there r consequences. I'll learn from my example".

But this morning Daybreak presenter Matt Barbet accused the skills minister of "spinning" and talking "nonsense". In a tweet addressed to the MP, he wrote: "Appreciate admission about missing us on @daybreak. Everyone oversleeps - but you know you were much more than a minute late."

He later added: "A minute after the interview starts is around 20-30 minutes later than when he should've been in the building preparing.

"Spinning it as if he was stopped from going on-air having just missed the time slot is nonsense."

We await confirmation as to whether Hancock's blinds were down this morning.

Conservative MP and skills minister Matthew Hancock at an interview he made on time.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.