For most ministers, it seems the only time we are made aware of their presence is through their failure, and Hunt is no exception to this rule. Boris Johnson, his current competitor in the leadership race, has been well known by the public for over a decade now, with his repeated gaffes and public outbursts making his famous, or for some, infamous. It seems as if Boris is a living embodiment of the idea that any publicity is good publicity, with this rule being exploited by many a populist figure in modern times, in stark contrast to Hunt. Indeed, we can see this contrast in how well either figure manages their respective tarrings in the face of the public.
Hunt’s tenure as Health Secretary is likely what most people think of when prompted, with said position lasting him six years and two Prime Ministers. This association is then swiftly followed with resentment which is common for Tories when allowed agency over the NHS, but if we look deeper into Hunt’s actions, this opinion may not seem totally unreasonable.
For instance, Hunt made the promise to millions of voters in 2015 to, as is expected of any good conservative, to commit to not increasing public spending at the taxpayer’s expense. He also promised, however, to introduce the “7 Day NHS”, a pledge that would allow Britons to access their local GP whenever needed. One can immediately understand the reaction from health workers - in their mind, this looks to be another instance of a Tory forcing the hammer of austerity onto them, forcing them to work longer hours for minimal wages. The situation definitely requires some negotiating skill, possibly to the same degree that Hunt claims to be able to call upon in front of the EU. In fact, Jeremy Hunt is such a formidable negotiating force that he was filmed sprinting up a staircase from an outraged junior doctor, as if fleeing a rabid dog. Needless to say the idea of the 7 Day NHS escaped with him, and we have not heard the phrase since. One can imagine Boris would have at least handed the man some tea first.
While it may seem that Jeremy Hunt evades most of the press attention, with more controversial and/or important figures in the Tory party taking up the first few pages of The Daily Mail in his place, this isn’t the only time he has embarrassed himself to the general public. Jeremy Hunt has, on multiple occasions, endorsed the use of homeopathic medicine, which may in part be due to his stake in the Hotcourses Group - an organisation which runs courses on and directly profits from the use of “alternative medicines”, including the aforementioned dehydration cure. Some may also remember him for his role as Cultural Secretary from 2010-2012 in which he jumped into the role by stating that the Hillsborough Disaster was “in part” caused by football hooliganism.
The most confident opinion most have of Hunt, however, is that he is resoundingly boring. To his credit it usually be in a politician’s favour to be boring, as it’s a great deal better than being reviled. Being liked is far too difficult. In current times though, this fact may not come to his aid. His monotony comes from his lack of real vision for change. Similar to Theresa May, he campaigned for Remain in the 2016 EU Referendum, and in line with his duties as minister, later took up the official party position of obtaining a negotiated Leave. Supporting Theresa through every hurdle, he tied himself to the outrage flung at the Conservatives on handling these negotiations, whereas others in Cabinet such as Boris were doing all they could to gain a comfortable distance. With Nigel Farage quickly approaching from the right to force the Tories into a more hardline Brexit position, Jeremy Hunt has been steadfast in maintaining the current policy - further negotiation. Where Boris has cemented himself as the candidate representing the ever-growing ‘no deal’ faction within the Tory base, Hunt is more of the same. It seems that a Conservative moderate’s hope for change left with Rory Stewart.
This takes us back to our vision of Jeremy Hunt’s Britain. What can we assume to see? Well, given the Tories’ current position have led them to come fifth in the most recent EU election, and a recent opinion poll from The Observer for the next General Election having the Conservative Party maintaining a confident 20% of the vote, it seems that Jeremy Hunt’s Britain could be a short lived one.
Andy Shamis (Balliol College) is an undergraduate in his first year of reading Mathematics and Computer Science.