Why West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock could be the one to watch in the race to become Prime Minister
Earlier this year when Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she would step down if her ill-fated Brexit deal was passed by Parliament, the runners and riders for the leadership of the Conservative party had already started jockeying for position.
One of the more hotly tipped candidates to replace May was West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock, who has today confirmed he will be standing for the top job.
According to The Spectator, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has arrived in this position by not ruffling too many feathers on his climb to the top.
A piece by Ross Clark noted ‘he, of all credible candidates, will be able to stand up at hustings and inspire the fewest negative feelings’.
Last month he spoke forthrightly about the state of the Conservative party, and where it needs to go in the future.
He made his speech in front of television cameras at the launch of a report by UK Onward, a conservative think tank.
The BBC described the event as a ‘hustings in all but name’ to be the next leader of the party.
The report, Generation Why?, said that the political gap between young and old has never been bigger, with younger people being more likely than their elders to vote for parties on the left.
It went on to set out how the Conservatives could close the gap, including keeping taxes low, reducing inequality and doing more to win over ethnic minorities.
Mr Hancock said the report was ‘a kick up the arse for the Conservative party’.
“I think we need to reroute the Conservative party unambiguously on the side of helping people improve their lives,” he said.
He also spoke about the need to be positive about modern Britain, saying people needed to be patriots for the Britain of now, not the Britain of 1940.
“We need to champion a Britain that is positive, and optimistic, and gregarious and outward facing, and community building, and inclusive and perhaps above all caring,” he said.
I think we need to reroute the Conservative party unambiguously on the side of helping people improve their lives - Matt Hancock
“There are some people who will say that this is just about presentation. It is emphatically not, it’s about policy.
“It’s about the future direction of the country. It’s about addressing causes of discontent. It’s about people’s hopes and dreams and that sense of belonging. It’s not just about how we talk about it, it’s about what we do.
“If we get it wrong then the prospects are bleak, and the polling makes that clear, but if we get it right then there is a real opportunity.
“So I think we need a fresh start and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Mr Hancock's route to the top table:
So, how did Matt Hancock become one of the ones to watch in the race to become the next Conservative leader?
He was born on October 2, 1978, and grew up on a farm in Cheshire.
He attended King’s School, a private school in Chester, and from there he followed a path frequently trodden by MPs and studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford.
He went on to gain a masters degree in economics from Cambridge.
After briefly working for his parents’ technology firm he moved on to work as an economist for the Bank of England, focusing on the housing market.
In 2005 he started working for George Osborne and progressed to become his chief of staff.
In 2010 he inherited the Tory nomination for the West Suffolk seat from Richard Spring, who was retiring after holding the seat from its creation in 1997.
In 2012 Mr Hancock entered government as the Minister for Skills and was invited to attend cabinet meetings as Paymaster General.
In 2016 he survived the cull of Cameron and Osborne acolytes under Theresa May, but was demoted to Minister of State for
Digital, which left him without a seat at the cabinet table.
Then, in 2018, when he was Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport he launched the Matt Hancock app
in an attempt to connect with constituents via their smartphones.
It drew derision from some due to concerns over privacy flaws.
Mrs May once joked: “He only talks to me by way of alarming phone notifications: ‘Matt Hancock would like to track your location’; ’Matt Hancock would like to access your photos’, and, perhaps most worrying of all, ‘there is a fault with Matt Hancock’.”
In July 2018, he succeeded Jeremy Hunt as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
In the 2016 referendum, Mr Hancock voted to remain in the EU, but has since backed the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement.
Married with three young children, he is a keen cricketer and plays for the parliamentary cricket team.
He is also the only MP in modern times to have won a horse race after winning a charity race at Newmarket in 2012.
What Matt Hancock has done for West Suffolk:
In his West Suffolk constituency Matt Hancock has led campaigns around improving health, broadband, and transport.
Mr Hancock gave his maiden speech as health secretary to staff at West Suffolk hospital in July 2018. He used it to praise the hospital’s approach to technology, as well as to speak about how much the NHS meant to him personally.
In May 2017 Emily Gilruth, his older sister, suffered a serious head injury and fell into a coma after she fell from a horse during the Badminton Horse Trials.
He said: “It was touch and go and her life was saved by the intensive care unit at Bristol’s Southmead Hospital where she stayed for a week – most of it in a coma.
“Thanks to their care she has now recovered and I want to say a deeply heartfelt thank you to the brilliant team at Southmead for all that they did.
“I love my sister and the NHS saved her life so when I say I love the NHS I mean it.”
Mr Hancock has had some success in improving the local road network and helped to secure £400,000 funding to install traffic lights at the A11 Fiveways roundabout in 2018.
He also chairs the A1307 strategy board, seeking to improve road links between Haverhill and Cambridge. This group has helped the A1307 become recognised as a major road, this allows them to bid for funding from a £3.5 billion pot allocated to improve the nations transport links.
In 2017, as Minister of State for Digital, Mr Hancock oversaw the Digital Economy Act being passed into law.
This Act guarantees everyone a minimum broadband speed of 10Mbps by 2020, and gives the government the power to make internet service providers pay compensation if they do not provide the required speed.