MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Matt Hancock mocked the rules he told us to obey. He had to go
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, simply had to go. Sometimes Ministers are forced out for contrived or barely relevant reasons. This was not one of those times. It is no good saying politicians’ personal lives are not the public’s business – because politicians are making the personal behaviour of the public their business. And none forced his way into the private lives of the people more than Mr Hancock.
Not since the Second World War has any British Government taken such tight control of society or interfered so deeply in the individual lives of law-abiding people. And one man has been at the centre of this.
A flow of decrees, personally signed by Mr Hancock, have prevented us from seeing close relatives even at the point of death. Expressions of normal human sympathy have been banned at funerals. Church services have been invaded by police. Children have been kept from embracing grandparents. Weddings have been reduced to tiny, joyless events. A petulant Mr Hancock even threatened to ban outdoor exercise if we were not more obedient.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, simply had to go. Sometimes Ministers are forced out for contrived or barely relevant reasons
Where these have not been actual laws, they have been rules pressed on us by relentless propaganda and by the personal urging of Mr Hancock. He was himself merciless to ‘Professor Lockdown’, Neil Ferguson, when he was caught breaking distancing rules. Mr Hancock claimed to be ‘speechless’ at this breach. And thousands of workplaces, presumably including those in Whitehall, are plastered with signs reminding us of the two-metre rule. He could not claim to be uninvolved in these matters or unaware of the regulations which were still very much in place at the time the film of Mr Hancock breaking them was taken.
Even in this relaxed age there is another point which we cannot really ignore, though some fashionably claim that they do. Many readers of The Mail on Sunday will feel Mr Hancock’s personal behaviour does matter, and it matters all the more because of the high office he holds and the authority he commands. His behaviour will have been a terrible blow to his wife and three children, and to the husband of the woman involved and her three children.
And then there is a simple matter of professional behaviour. What private or public enterprise would tolerate a senior executive behaving like this, canoodling with a subordinate on its premises?
Many questions surround Mr Hancock, who gives off a general air of slipperiness. The appointment of the woman involved, Gina Coladangelo, as his adviser is itself open to question. This newspaper’s investigations into the curious affair of his friend and neighbour Alex Bourne do not reveal a smoking gun. But there is still something about his being awarded a huge NHS contract, despite having had no previous experience of such things, which is odd in the extreme.
Mr Hancock was himself merciless to ‘Professor Lockdown’, Neil Ferguson (pictured), when he was caught breaking distancing rules
And there is no telling how much damage Mr Hancock’s hypocrisy will do to the fight against Covid. Like Dominic Cummings’s wild drive to Barnard Castle, and Professor Ferguson’s rule-breaking tryst with a girlfriend, Mr Hancock’s fumble undermined the whole campaign. Millions more will simply cease to take seriously the warnings of a government whose own Health Secretary privately laughed at the rules he solemnly urged us to obey.
Above all, that is why he had to resign. If he had remained at his post, he would have undone much of the good work he undoubtedly did.
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