Amid censorious talk of strivers and skivers, the government has been forced to explain why a minister failed to turn up for a pre-arranged breakfast debate on the subject of apprenticeships. The answer appears to be that Matthew Hancock couldn't get out of bed. The 34-year-old West Suffolk MP and skills minister had agreed to appear on the ITV breakfast show Daybreak to defend the new traineeships scheme with activist Ian Pattison of Youth Fight for Jobs.
At 6.30am yesterday, Pattison was ready on the London studio sofa, but there was no sign of the minister. Programme staff said that on calling his home, they were informed he was still in bed. Pattison had to carry on as the sole interviewee.
"Can you imagine my surprise when I discovered a minister whose government berates so-called 'shirkers', couldn't be bothered to get out of bed to defend his own policy,"
Pattison said afterwards. "If the minister was a jobseeker, he could lose his benefits for up to three months for such an offence. Luckily, he doesn't have to worry about things like that. Hancock's traineeship scheme is the latest gimmick coming out of the Tories to disguise the fact they have failed to tackle the staggering problems of unemployment affecting young people."
Hancock, George Osborne's former chief of staff, said he only just failed to make the appointment. "I was 30 seconds late for my interview at 6.40 this morning, so they wouldn't let me in to the studio to make my case," he said.
"It proves the point. You've got to be on time for work or there are consequences. I'll learn from my own example."