It's difficult to remember now, after another weekend of tragedy and militarism and politicking and the general collapse of the west, but there was a window of time on Thursday – the first window of time in a long, unbroken wall of bumpy, grey time – where it appeared that something good had happened. Good by our new re-calibrated standards of good, which basically means "anything that doesn't have major economic or social repercussions on the world". That good thing – that small parcel of sweetness left on our doorsteps in the middle of a dark, stormy night – was the news that Jeremy Hunt had been fired.
In these impossible times, it's these small victories that make all the difference. Why else do you think grown adults nationwide suddenly went so batshit crazy over a cat being allowed to stay in a house, or the fact that David Cameron hummed a tune? This is where we've arrived in 2016: cats and humming are our only sources of optimism. The dismissal of Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary actually upped the ante. A man who has seemed hell-bent on dismantling the NHS was on the way out.
Hospital corridors were filled with the sound of respite. Anaesthetists unfurled banners, chiropractors blew up balloons and ophthalmologists started stuffing party bags with cheap yo-yos and Maoams. Then this happened.
'Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated…' Thrilled to be back in the best job in Government.
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 14, 2016
Jeremy Hunt went full Dirty Den Watts, stepping out from the shadows and whispering a morbid "hello princess" in the ear of every doctor in the UK. Let's look at that tweet again. The glee, the sinister satisfaction. He may as well have just typed "Thought you'd seen the last of me, eh?"
"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated…" might be one of the most badass things a politician has ever tweeted. Yes, it's a Mark Twain quote, but in this context it makes the health secretary sound like some master of the dark arts.
This move is classic Hunt. He's like a shape-shifting reptilian overlord who still hasn't mastered the shape-shifting part. He knows no moral code and shows no discernible motives or impetus, running instead on some sort of nihilistic "some men just want to watch the world burn" mentality. Throughout the junior doctors strike he exhibited not only sinister intentions but also a weird delight in extending the pain of the process. Despite constant and clear expressions of how unworkable his proposals were, he ignored them and drew things out, and on, and on. This is a man who appears to enjoy disassembling things slowly. He is the kid in your class who would catch daddy long-legs and pick them apart in front of a small horrified cluster of classmates in the playground.
Back in 2012 he very nearly lost his position as culture secretary when it emerged he'd been unnaturally cosy with Murdoch's News Corp around the time of the Leveson enquiry. Yet, he didn't go. An aide fell on his sword. Jeremy drank a pint of unicorn's blood and walked again.
This time it seems likely that Hunt has been saved simply because he is so unliked. Theresa May may well have sinister designs of her own for the UK's hospitals, and is therefore aware that the best person to carry out such reforms is a man with a reputation for being a bastard. After making Boris Johnson foreign secretary and putting David Davis, a libertarian who supports capital punishment, in charge of Brexit, she is perhaps recruiting a suicide squad of her very own. It won't be pretty, but they'll take all the blame.
It leaves Hunt exactly where he started: back in the contract disagreements that have characterised his time in the role so far, and deeper into the history books as one of the most disliked Tory MPs in our lifetime. How does he feel about it? Thrilled. "Thrilled to be back in the best job in Government." Because that's it, isn't it? Jeremy Hunt lives for this shit. Jeremy Hunt – unassuming; looks like a maths teacher, thinks like an arsonist – can't get enough. You pour on your abusive tweets, wave your derogatory banner, replay the time James Naughtie referred to him as "Jeremy Cunt" as many times as you like. You cannot bury him. You've cuffed him to the bed and now Jeremy's staring you wildly in the eyes asking you to burn the hair around his nipples. He is the asbestos politician. He will always rise again.
Jeremy Hunt is dead, long live Jeremy Hunt.
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