Matt Hancock wades in on football and Facebook. Then wades back out again

Written by James Millar on 22 March 2018 in Diary

The culture secretary gets in a mess over England's World Cup chances and his own infamous app

Ambitious cabinet minister Matt Hancock was no doubt delighted to be assigned media duties first thing this morning. But then he opened his mouth.

Asked on ITV's Good Morning Britain about relations with Russia and whether England should boycott the World Cup he responded; "Actually the best response frankly to all of this would be for England to go to the World Cup and win it." Inevitably social media was filled with derision at England's chances of actually doing that and consequently during his next engagement, a Today programme interview with John Humphrys, he was asked about the same issue. This time Hancock insisted he'd been asked about the World Cup and that's why it brought up. Having asked him again about it Humphrys bizarrely then suggested Hancock was talking about football too much.

And Hancock's day didn't improve when it was revealed that his app, for which he has been much mocked, had to be modified so it didn't gather unnecessary data from users. Having criticised Facebook for breaching the privacy of millions of its users he then had to admit that he'd received complaints that his own app, which he launched to facilitate contact with this constituents, was harvesting photos of users. He said: "We actually asked for more consent than was actually needed. That absolutely has been fixed. It demonstrates just how important it is to get this right." 

However he was happy to joke about his app at a lunch for journalists later in the day. He suggested Facebook users should move over to the Matt Hancock app which he described as "a community of happiness and joy."

At the same lunch, at which he faced little scrutiny for his decision to drop stage two of the Leveson inquiry, he did an impression of fellow cabinet minister Gavin Williamson telling opponents of a free press to "go away and shut up" and in a thinly veiled dig at the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Alex Salmond, advised politicians not to appear on Russia backed news channel RT. 

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