HENRY DEEDES: Matt Hancock's Apocalypse Now moment

Head boy Matt Hancock’s touch of Apocalypse Now… for the freshers: HENRY DEEDES watches the Health Secretary announcing the Bolton lockdown

Fans of classic Vietnam war epic Apocalypse Now will doubtless recall Colonel Kilgore – the rough, tough, Captain Ahab-like soldier who loves nothing more than the crackle of gunfire in his ears and the whiff of napalm in his nostrils.

In one memorable scene, the Colonel, played by Robert Duvall, gives the smouldering battlefield one last tour d’horizon and laments: ‘Someday this war is gonna end.’ But viewers are left in no doubt – it’s a day he hopes will never come.

There are times when I can’t help but wonder whether Matt Hancock hasn’t developed a faint strain of Kilgore syndrome.

Matt Hancock, pictured arrived in the chamber yesterday fizzing at the prospect of locking down Bolton following an increase in infections 

Robert Duval played Colonel Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, a hard-bitten soldier who appeared to view the end of war as a tragic thing

While the rest of the Government is desperate to get the country back to work, the Health Secretary appears determined to yank up the drawbridge and keep us all inside.

Yesterday he arrived in the chamber, fizzier than a packet of popping candy as usual, to say he was locking down Bolton after a recent jump in infections. Thanks to his much vaunted (though possibly hopeless) test and trace system, he was able to blame the spike squarely on the town’s thirsty youth.

Under Captain Hancock’s orders, restaurants in the area will now be takeaway only. Meanwhile, last orders at the bar will be 10pm. My, my. Freshers’ week will be fun!

Hancock curled his fingers gleefully around his ring binder. He never looks happier than when issuing instructions. ‘This is not over,’ he warned in that ominous, headboyish tone.

I bet he was an absolute so-and-so to the younger boys at school…

More from Henry Deedes for the Daily Mail…

The opposition benches hardly kicked up a fuss. They were more concerned about testing cock-ups after some people were told to travel hundreds of miles to get swabbed.

Labour’s health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth referred to people in Devon being advised to cross the sea over to Swansea. ‘The Secretary of State may walk on water,’ said Ashworth. ‘Most constituents can’t.’ And Philippa Whitford (SNP, C Ayrshire) knew of people in Plymouth who had been told to go to Inverness.

The SNP welcomed this new lockdown announcement. Of course they did. Alyn Smith (SNP, Stirling) was smarmy enough to acknowledge that Hancock is doing a ‘difficult job in difficult circumstances’.

But Sir Edward Leigh (Con, Gainsborough) wasn’t so generous. Rather than nannying Bolton’s yoof, he felt they should be encouraged to exercise common sense.

He pointed out that telling the young how to behave usually has the opposite effect. The mild exasperation in courtly Sir Edward’s voice suggested he was speaking from experience.

The Government benches bore an oddly subdued atmosphere. Most sat glued to their telephones, possibly monitoring the fall-out from Brandon Lewis’s previous statement, when he casually admitted today’s bill to amend the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU will ‘break international law’.

Lewis was addressing a question from Sir Bob Neill (Con, Bromley and Chislehurst). The look on Sir Bob’s face at Lewis’s response! Like a nun who’d just been told she’s expecting.

Venues across Bolton had to remove seating as a result of the re-imposed restrictions 

Earlier, the culture committee heard evidence from composer and theatre impresario Lord Lloyd-Webber on the crisis facing our theatres.

His Lordship spoke a great deal of sense. Luvvieland, he warned, was ‘at the point of no return’. There was the odd flash of anger, but – despite repeated invitations by Kevin Brennan (Lab, Cardiff W) – he resisted the chance to kick chunks out of Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden who was ‘up against a brick wall not of his making’.

The old boy looked drained at times. I suspect his head has not sufficiently met with pillow these past six months. At 72, few would have blamed him for swanning off to enjoy his well-earned squillions. But the fact is, the plight of the UK’s arts industry matters a great deal to him. He genuinely does care.

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