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The anticipation of a leadership contest makes for a febrile atmosphere around Westminster. Here in lame-duck land, Theresa May’s potential successors totter around Parliament like they’re balancing on champagne flutes.
Ministers are skittish. Jittery. They are all too aware that one crisis in their department, however minor, can torpedo a campaign before it has even begun.
Health - Secretary - Matt - Hancock - Connections
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, a well-fancied (and according to my bookmaking connections well-backed) candidate found himself in the unwelcome glare of public opprobrium on Saturday when a mother, Emma Appleby, had £4,000 of cannabis oil seized at Southend airport, which she had procured in the Netherlands to treat her nine-year-old daughter’s epilepsy.
Emma’s daughter, Teagan, who is unable to get the oil prescribed in the UK, suffers up to 300 fits a day. Their plight prompted an urgent question yesterday from Sir Mike Penning (Con, Hemel Hempstead). For a wet Monday afternoon, it drew quite a crowd to the chamber.
Air - Guardsman - Face - Bag - Man
Penning has an uncompromising air which befits an ex-Grenadier Guardsman. Face like a bag man for the Kray twins. Voice harder than a coffin nail. It was a disgrace, he said, that families such as the Applebys were not able to get a cannabis prescription in this country.
Hancock rose to his feet, fidgeting defensively with his pencil-thin tie. Up until now, his ministerial record has been as unblemished as a Revlon model’s cheekbones. This was an awkward test for the ambitious young shaver.
Struggles - Self-doubt - Dispatch - Box - Swell
Fortunately for him, he seems honourably ineligible for the struggles of self-doubt. He gripped the dispatch box firmly, absorbing the emotive swell around him.
In a Cabinet made up of some very dull grey men, Hancock is one of its better performers.
Labour - Benches - Diane - Abbott - Lab
First up from the Labour benches came Diane Abbott (Lab, Hackney North and Stoke Newington), not necessarily the worst opponent to have. What the Applebys had...
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