Matt Hancock is facing an angry backlash after he told a Labour minister and frontline A&E doctor to watch her “tone” after she criticised his record during the coronavirus crisis.
The health secretary was condemned by angry Labour MPs following his remark towards Dr Rosena Allin-Khan in the Commons on Tuesday.
Dr Allin-Khan, the shadow mental health minister who during the epidemic has been working at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London, had said: “Frontline workers like me have had to watch families break into pieces as we deliver the very worst of news to them: that the ones they love most in this world have died.
“The testing strategy has been non-existent. Community testing was scrapped, mass testing was slow to roll out and testing figures are now being manipulated.”
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Dr Allin-Khan asked him to commit to a minimum 100,000 tests a day – after the figures fell below this target in recent days – and suggested the government’s initial lack of testing at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak has cost lives.
Hancock rejected this and said: “I welcome [Dr Allin-Khan] to her post as part of the shadow health team. I think she might do well to take a leaf out of [shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth’s] book in terms of tone.”
Responding to the exchange, Dr Allin-Khan wrote on Twitter: “I will respectfully challenge the government – I want our country to succeed.
“However, I will not 'watch my tone' when dozens of NHS and care staff are dying unnecessarily.”
Here is how Labour MPs responded to the exchange…
Her tone was fine, respectful, and might I dare say her view is more knowledgeable about the front line than the Health Secretary. Can't imagine why he doesn't like her "tone". (obviously I can well imagine) https://t.co/8mcmIUswSX
— Jess Phillips MP (@jessphillips) May 5, 2020
I was watching Health Questions. Absolutely nothing wrong with your tone. It reflects and reverberates with the reality of what yourself and other NHS workers are experiencing. Hancock very unwise to be so dismissive #coronavirus
— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) May 5, 2020
— Alison McGovern (@Alison_McGovern) May 5, 2020
A number of celebrities also criticised Hancock...
It’s the Health Secretary who needs to watch his ‘tone’, especially when an A&E doctor MP asks perfectly legitimate questions on the day Britain moved to 2nd worst reported #coronavirus death toll in the world. 👇 https://t.co/HVxc7Qb5if
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 5, 2020
There was absolutely nothing wrong with your tone
— Nigella Lawson (@Nigella_Lawson) May 5, 2020
There is no "tone." @DrRosena asks a completely straightforward question in a completely straightforward manner and @MattHancock's tells her off, as if she's been rude or shrill or perhaps even just a woman asking a difficult question. https://t.co/HTkuVwe2Cr
— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) May 5, 2020
Dr Allin-Khan, who has been MP for Tooting since 2016, finished second in Labour’s deputy leadership election earlier this year.
In an interview with Yahoo News UK during the campaign, she had pledged to continue her A&E work even if she became deputy leader. She was ultimately beaten by Angela Rayner.