What’s the single most embarrassing thing about Matt Hancock’s ‘badge for carers’? I’ll give you a minute

The health secretary still had no answers for any of the questions about everything that’s going so very badly wrong, but he did have a pointless new policy to announce

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Thursday 16 April 2020 10:16 BST
Hancock says he wants to give people “the right to say goodbye”

National lockdown appears to be boom time for quizzes if absolutely nothing else, so why don’t we have today’s column in multiple choice format. A bit of hush please. Eyes down. Question One.

What is the single most embarrassing thing about health secretary Matt Hancock’s newly announced “badge for carers”?

Is it:

a) The fact that Matt Hancock is in the middle of a national scandal, in which entirely unknown thousands of people are dying in care homes, cared for by staff who haven’t been provided with the proper protective equipment to do their jobs safely, and who have now been given, instead of the masks, gowns and gloves they urgently need, a small badge with the word “care” written on it?

Or is it:

b) The fact that said newly announced badge isn’t actually newly announced at all? It was announced more than a year ago but is yet to actually be delivered, meaning that the tiny little badge is only available now to be deployed as a pin-sized arse-covering exercise because of the fortuitous result of broken promises this time last year.

Sorry to disappoint but there’s no right or wrong answer here. You can have a point for each. Two points if you put both. They’re both as embarrassing as each other.

The badge itself isn’t. Course it isn’t. Matt Hancock was completely right to say that carers should have a badge, just like NHS workers do, to make it easier for them to gain access to various perks routinely laid on for NHS workers by supermarkets and other businesses.

These things matter to people. It’s just that they mattered a lot more a year ago, when it was first announced. Back then, carers getting a badge with the word “care” on was rather higher up a carer’s list of priorities. When you’re not going to work thinking you might die for lack of a three-quid mask, the occasional free flat white in Pret seems less important than it once did.

Now they can’t help but notice that, well, the people they care for are dying and no one seems to be that bothered.

Still, when there are difficult questions buzzing around, you can always make a new announcement. The tiny badge wasn’t the only one. We also learn that Matt Hancock is going to ease the restrictions around letting people be with their loved ones in their final moments.

He had been moved to make this decision by the unimaginably awful story about the 13-year-old boy who had died without his parents by his side.

“Wanting to be with someone you love at the end of their life is one of the deepest human instincts,” Hancock said. So deep, in fact, that it hadn’t actually occurred to him until now, and you know, sorry that we kind of got this one a bit wrong, but be honest, what were you expecting by this point?

Hancock will have to hope that the currently insatiable appetite for quizzes peters out quite soon because he’s got some fiendishly difficult ones coming up. It is two weeks since he launched his “five pillars” for achieving 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, a plan which appeared to be launched for little greater reason beyond kicking into the not-very-long grass the awkward questions about the lack of testing.

And he’s now got another two weeks to work out what he’s going to do about this target that he currently appears to have absolutely zero chance of meeting.

Who knows what he’ll announce then? Bottomless Nando’s soft drinks for hospital car park attendants? Free toilet paper for midwives?

If our health secretary wants to try and cover up the transparently obvious, he’ll need to start with a bigger badge.

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