I’m here to interview Matt Hancock, the MP most likely to be given a wedgie by a 12 year-old, following his adventure with Channel 4’s Celebrity SAS. To my surprise there’s a cigarette dangling from his lip, unlit, as he launches himself at the revolving door. The door refuses to yield until a little old lady pushes past him and opens it, Hancock following in her wake.
Hancock throws himself into a chair, manspreading, his arms draped over the back of the chair in a pose of dominance. He’s wearing a distressed leather jacket and faded jeans. The cigarette is gone, presumably a casualty of the tussle with the door.
We start to talk but then he cuts away to signal a waiter. Several times. Waiters wander past our table, clearly looking for business, but Hancock is invisible.
‘Would you like something to drink?’ I ask, but he waves me away and puts his hand out to attract attention.
‘Oh this is ridiculous!’ he says, standing. ‘You! Yes, you. Could I . . . . oh, sorry, thought you worked here’. I look round and catch a waiter’s eye, and soon we’re both drinking coffee.
‘I take mine black now, and very strong’, he told me. ‘When you’ve done the things I’ve done, you want to test your body to the limit’. I can’t help noticing that he pulls a weaning face every time he takes a sip, and his coffee doesn’t go down.
I start with a gentle question: ‘SAS Who Dares Wins must have been quite a change from politics?’
‘Not at all’, he says, trying once more to drink some coffee. It still isn’t going down. ‘People have underestimated me all my life’. A couple of customers walk past making the ‘wanker’ gesture, which Hancock affects not to notice. ‘In another life I might have been a special forces soldier. Or a maverick cop. Maybe a private eye’.
‘I imagine a maverick cop would be able to win a fistfight without running away though?’
‘I didn’t run away, I was letting him tire himself out’.
‘But you got fairly battered. What was your proudest moment in the course?’
‘Right at the end I asked the DS – that’s what we call the Directing Staff in the special forces – I asked them how many people they’d killed. For some reason they made this face’ (Hancock makes a ‘disgusted’ face) ‘I’ve seen it before but it isn’t in any of the manuals they gave me when I joined the Conservative Party so I don’t know what it means. Anyway, after I’d followed them around for about an hour Mark Billingham eventually broke and shouted a number at me. I did that! I broke Mark Billingham’s spirit!’
‘And that’s what you’re proudest of?’
‘No, it was just . . . his figure is tiny compared to mine. Who’s the daddy now?’
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