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
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Theresa May's "clean Brexit" is hard Brexit with better PR

The Prime Minister's objectives point to the hardest of exits from the European Union. 

Theresa May will outline her approach to Britain’s Brexit deal in a much-hyped speech later today, with a 12-point plan for Brexit.

The headlines: her vow that Britain will not be “half in, half out” and border control will come before our membership of the single market.

And the PM will unveil a new flavour of Brexit: not hard, not soft, but “clean” aka hard but with better PR.

“Britain's clean break from EU” is the i’s splash, “My 12-point plan for Brexit” is the Telegraph’s, “We Will Get Clean Break From EU” cheers the Express, “Theresa’s New Free Britain” roars the Mail, “May: We’ll Go It Alone With CLEAN Brexit” is the Metro’s take. The Guardian goes for the somewhat more subdued “May rules out UK staying in single market” as their splash while the Sun opts for “Great Brexpectations”.

You might, at this point, be grappling with a sense of déjà vu. May’s new approach to the Brexit talks is pretty much what you’d expect from what she’s said since getting the keys to Downing Street, as I wrote back in October. Neither of her stated red lines, on border control or freeing British law from the European Court of Justice, can be met without taking Britain out of the single market aka a hard Brexit in old money.

What is new is the language on the customs union, the only area where May has actually been sparing on detail. The speech will make it clear that after Brexit, Britain will want to strike its own trade deals, which means that either an unlikely exemption will be carved out, or, more likely, that the United Kingdom will be out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union.

(As an aside, another good steer about the customs union can be found in today’s row between Boris Johnson and the other foreign ministers of the EU27. He is under fire for vetoing an EU statement in support of a two-state solution, reputedly to curry favour with Donald Trump. It would be strange if Downing Street was shredding decades of British policy on the Middle East to appease the President-Elect if we weren’t going to leave the customs union in order at the end of it.)

But what really matters isn’t what May says today but what happens around Europe over the next few months. Donald Trump’s attacks on the EU and Nato yesterday will increase the incentive on the part of the EU27 to put securing the political project front-and-centre in the Brexit talks, making a good deal for Britain significantly less likely.

Add that to the unforced errors on the part of the British government, like Amber Rudd’s wheeze to compile lists of foreign workers, and the diplomatic situation is not what you would wish to secure the best Brexit deal, to put it mildly.

Clean Brexit? Nah. It’s going to get messy. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.