An imagined interview with Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Violet Editor Alex Castillo grills the Health Secretary on the government’s handling of the pandemic, and discusses the influence of the movie Contagion.

Alex Castillo-Powell

Louise Knight

I knock twice on the Health Secretary’s door.

“Come in,” he beckons. “Have a seat.”

I glance around the room, noticing Union Jack flagpoles flanking the desk’s every corner, covering every angle in case a surprise patriotic selfie is needed. I offer my hand and am met with a limp, clammy, lifeless shake from the Health Secretary. I get out my notebook.


“Okay, so, firstly, let’s start with the beginning of the pandemic. Was the government prepared for the start of the health crisis? Do you think there was a clear strategy in place?”

The Health Secretary lets out a small laugh of derision.

“Was there a strategy in place? I’ll have you know that I watched Contagion twice in the early days of the pandemic. That’s right. While Italy and Spain were floundering about, we were in meticulous preparation mode.”

“You do know that film is fictional, right?” I ask.

“You can learn a lot from it. Bats are evil, Matt Damon is fantastic, and in the end, Laurence Fishburne will save the day …”

“To be honest, I fell asleep towards the end.” He yawns.

“Shall we move on?” I ask.


 “What do you have to say about accusations that PPE contracts were awarded to friends of the government with little experience in the healthcare industry?”

“Whaaat? I’ve literally never heard that before.” Hancock starts nervously peeling the label off his Evian water bottle.

“Didn’t you award your neighbour a medical contract over Whatsapp?”

Hancock dodges the question and picks his silent phone up from the table.

“Hello, yes. Health Secretary, here.” He pretends to listen intently on the phone when, to his dismay, it suddenly rings in his hand. He jumps and the phone fumbles to the ground. He looks up and smiles.

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” I ask.

“It’s probably just Cummings. He prank calls me from time to time … Anyway, you were asking about how we managed to do such a great job with the whole vaccine thing.”

“No, I was…”

“Well, you see after watching Contagion for the second time, I realised that those vaccines are actually quite important, so we gave a bunch of money to pharmaceutical companies and said, ‘make that juice, baby,’ or something to that effect.”

“Actually, I was asking about the PPE contracts. Is it true you awarded a £250 million contract to a US jewellery company?”

Beads of sweat drip down Hancock’s temple, his clammy hands gripping the sides of the desk.

“I don’t know where you’ve been reading these things, haha.” He laughs nervously, pressing a button on his desk. “Suzanne, can we get some more water in here!” he shouts at his secretary through the intercom.

I press ahead with my questions.

“I’m just struggling to understand why you awarded contracts to these companies. I’m sure you can explain. Did the Florida-based jewellery-makers moonlight as medical equipment specialists?”

“Have you noticed our beautiful flags?” Hancock gestures towards the Union Jacks behind me. While my back is turned, he grabs a small plastic bottle of liquid from behind his desk and squirts the liquid into his eyes. I turn back around to find the Health Secretary slumped over his desk, letting his tears drip onto the polished wood.

“It’s just been such a hard time for me and my team. You have no idea! Look …” he gestures to his eyes, “Real tears! But we’ve come so far and we’re nearly at the finish line thanks to British ingenuity!”

“Isn’t AstraZeneca also Swedish?” I ask.

“Shhhh …” Hancock puts his finger to my lips. “British ingenuity. Write that down,” he says, as the tears evaporate from his eyelids and he fixes his eyes on mine.

"Does the government have any indication on when students will be able to return to university?" 


Mountain View

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"The official government advice is that students will definitely be able to not un-return in the post-Easter rotation of the Earth." Hancock replies. 

"Could the government be more specific?" 

“You know, you journalists are all the same.” His eyes begin to sharpen. “You attack the government during a time of national crisis. You question our every move. You unpatriotic son of a …”


Hancock’s secretary walks in with a jug of water.

“Ah, thank you, Suzanne. What was I saying? Oh, yes, did I tell you we’re moving treasury officials to Leeds? ‘We love the North.’ Write that down,” he commands.

“Well, I think that’s all we have time for,” he tells me.

“But I was promised thirty minutes?”

Hancock grabs my notebook and pen off the desk. ‘Best government eva,’ he writes at the bottom of the page.

“There you go. You can print that. Interview over.”

He stands up and starts dragging my wheelie chair out of the room.

“Have a nice day.” Hancock beams as he kicks me wheeling down the corridor.