Society Diary: The Matt Hancock edition

12 Jan 2018 Voices

One of these people dressed as a sumo wrestler may, or may not, be the new Health Secretary

Two weeks down, 50 or so more to go dear readers and what a week it’s been. Only today big Donny T. announced on Twitter he had refused an offer to cut the ribbon at the opening of the new US embassy in London because of Obama or something. It was totally his decision and definitely wasn’t made because his setting foot in the UK would result in one of the largest protests this country has ever seen.

Also this week, Nigel Farage may have said he’d consider calling for a second referendum on leaving the EU, the “official bra-fitters to the Queen” had their royal warrant revoked after its owner published a book called Storm in a D-Cup which touched on its work with Liz, and a butcher used a frozen black pudding to bash his way out of a meat locker. Big week.

This week in charitable sector satire: The #VivaVellum guy is now a proper, big-boy minister, a school in Cornwall isolates girl for charity head shave and a legacy monitoring organisations Tweets without thinking.

A Matt Stat Attack

As you may be aware, this country’s Prime Minister Theresa May begun this week by trying to reboot (for the umpteenth time) her premiership with a good old-fashioned cabinet reshuffle. In a bid to show off just how strong and respected she is within her party, May tried to shuffle a few existing cabinet ministers into different roles. In a sign of just how respected May is by her own cabinet ministers, many simply refused to move, while Justine Greening just straight up resigned. New year, same May.

Anyway while the Daily Mail, Sun, Express and everyone’s least favourite uncle were up in arms about Theresa May’s politically correct night of the long knives cull of old, white men from her cabinet (rolls eyes in exasperation), the charity sector may have noticed that Matt Hancock was promoted to the role of Secretary of State for DCMS.

Now, long-time readers of this column may well be aware that this column has tangled with Mr Hancock in the past. However, now that the MP for West Suffolk has been promoted to head the department which is itself responsible for the Office for Civil Society, it is only right and proper that Diary takes a deeper dive into all things Matt.

Hancock is, it must be said, a man of contradictions. Perhaps most amusingly in 2016, Hancock staked much of his political reputation on ensuring that the House of Lords continued to print all of its Acts on parchment made from vellum. Now, if you’re not aware, vellum is made from the stretched and treated skin of dead little baby lambs and goats. Hancock said at the time “recording laws on vellum is a millennium-long tradition and surprisingly cost-effective. While the world constantly changes, we should safeguard some of our great traditions”. This, from the man now responsible for driving all digital innovation in Britain. 

In order to safeguard this ancient tradition, Hancock took to the modern day equivalent: Twitter. In doing so, he helped coin perhaps the most Tory of all hashtags and one which was subsequently parroted by the then minister for civil society Rob Wilson, #VivaVellum.

This column frothed at the mouth at the time about #VivaVellum, publicly decrying the whole thing as a total waste of time, money and energy by elected officials who surely had something better to do with their time. However, this was pre-Brexit and Trump. It seemed at the time a strange hill on which to die but, hey, it was a different, simpler, gentler time. Unless of course you were a lamb or baby goat.

Other interesting Matt stats: he’s the only sitting MP to have ridden a professional horse race winner. He was also part of a cricket team which played a match on an Arctic pitch. Literally, Matt Hancock played a game of cricket in the Arctic. At least it seems he's got the 'S' part of the DCMS brief down. 

Matt Hancock has also, much to the chagrin of much of London’s fashionable West End, has already seen the musical Hamilton and, apparently liked it very much if his Twitter channel is anything to go by. He’s also apparently a massive fan of both Ed Sheeran and London’s Grime music scene. You’d have thought that those two musical facts would be mutually exclusive but, then again, you’re not Matt Hancock. Tick 'C' off as well. 

Twitter, horseriding, Hamilton. He's also a big fan of his local newspaper, which covers the whole Media part of the brief. So, in other words, you could say Matt Hancock's got it all - except, quite possibly, a soul. 

But importantly for the charity sector Hancock has demonstrated his commitment to fundraising.

In 2015 as he began the second reading of the Charities Bill he said: "Every hon. Member will know of a charity or charities doing extraordinary work in their constituency, as will you, Mr Speaker. Many have served or will serve as patrons or trustees. They may even have subjected themselves to ritual humiliation to raise money and awareness.

"I have dressed up as a sumo wrestler, carried a pedometer for a week and even lost two stone to race a charger around the Newmarket July course. Charities channel the best of our instincts against the worst that life can inflict, whether that is sickness of mind and body, entrenched poverty or natural disaster." 

A SUMO wrestler reader. There are no words. 

So in the name of journalism, Diary has searched far and wide for evidence of his sumo efforts and the closest we could find was the picture on his website above of a group of sumos that features several people in sumo costumes - at least he made some friends. 

How not to tweet about legacies

Finally, and briefly, this week we go to the Twitter stream of Legacy Foresight. Now Legacy Foresight analyse the UK’s legacy and in-memory fundraising sectors. They also release quarterly legacy income forecasts which can be, very occasionally, laden with some unfortunate (or downright insensitive) turns of phrase.

As legacies tend to deal with, well, death, Legacy Foresight has been criticised in the past for ghoulishly focusing on correlations between “increased death rates” and more money for charities. Well, LF have doubled down on this today with this whopper of a clickbait tweet:



Is that pun about breathing life into legacy activity intentional? If this is a joke then let Diary be the first to say that it absolutely killed… or died. Whichever is more, or less, appropriate.  


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