A regional daily has thrown down the gauntlet to Matt Hancock over his lack of availability for interview as its patch remains “in the dark” about the coronavirus lockdown imposed upon it.
Mr Hancock has yet to make himself available to the Mercury for interview despite repeated attempts by the newspaper.
The Mercury splashed on the crisis this morning with the headline ‘Still in the dark’, pictured below, and also published a list of questions they would ask the Secretary of State if given the opportunity.
An accompanying piece, jointly filed by politics reporter Dan Martin and local democracy reporter Amy Orton, said Mr Hancock’s “often late night” communication of decisions regarding the situation in Leicester had “sometimes seemed chaotic and haphazard”.
In a message to readers, they wrote: “It has been a problem for the media, local public health officials dealing with the disease on the city streets – and most importantly for the people of the city who largely wanted to do the right thing, but desperately needed clarity on what exactly that meant.
“Mr Hancock is now one of the country’s most recognised politicians and the man charged with bringing the pandemic under control as well as being the man who decides what happens next for Leicester.
“He is regularly to be seen on television and heard on the radio – particularly now local lockdowns have reached other parts of the country – but for months we have been trying to pin him down to get answers to a reasonable set of questions that people in the city have about how and why he has made the decisions he has.
“We have asked repeatedly for the opportunity to put to the Secretary of State a very specific set of questions that exist in the only city that has never fully been out of lockdown. The questions our readers want to and deserve to know the answers to.”
Dan and Amy went on to note the government had once offered up a junior health minister, Nadine Dorries, for interview.
They added: “But our repeated requests on your behalf to speak to the politician with ultimate responsibility have so far fallen on deaf ears.
“Now there is a strong feeling in Leicester, once on the frontline of the fight against the virus, is now a government afterthought that could be potentially stuck in a rolling lockdown.
“Mr Hancock knows the people of Leicester have questions for him, they remind him every day on social media, so we’ll keep trying to get them answered.”
Editor Adam Moss told HTFP: “Leicester has been in lockdown for 25 weeks and while everyone understands why that’s been necessary, we know that our readers online and in print have been wondering exactly what it will take for the local lockdown to be lifted.
“We’ve been trying to find out on our readers’ behalf for months, yet despite our repeated efforts, we’ve found it very difficult to get any meaningful answers to our questions from the Department of Health and Social Care.
“And Mr Hancock has not responded to any of our requests for an interview on the subject.
“People in the city just want clarity and to know where they stand. So, Mr Hancock, if you’re reading this, we’d still love to do that interview.”
HTFP has approached the Department of Health and Social Care for a comment.