Hancock: Emergent class of rulebreakers are undermining government

Will he go or will he stay?

Can Hancock survive a sneaky snog and buttock fondle that took place at a time when he was telling us all to social distance?

Matt Hancock survived Dominic Cumming’s torpedoes and hell has no fury like a political adviser scorned. Hancock has the prime minister’s backing. Well, Johnson has had his own jolly japes.

But the media are howling for Hancock’s resignation. His behaviour and his future is bound to dominate tomorrow’s political circuit. As Ed Davey said yesterday, the real issue is Matt Hancock’s competence in his role as health secretary. Agreed. But there is growing anger among those told to obey pandemic isolation rules while ministers and advisers routinely ignore them.

Some people may have forgotten that Neill Ferguson felt obliged to step down from Sage (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) after spending time with his lover. Matt Hancock was quick at the time to describe Ferguson’s behaviour as “extraordinary”. He told Sky News: “Everyone has to obey social distancing rules.”

No one has forgotten Dominic Cummins’s trip to the north east while Covid-19 positive and his drive to Barnards Castle to test his eyesight.

It is not eyesight this government has a problem with. It’s foresight. They don’t seem to recognise the damage they are causing. The consensus that brought us together at the beginning of the epidemic is failing fast. Perhaps that was inevitable but it is being accelerated by the wonton disregard of rules by senior figures and the lack of any action by Johnson’s government against rule breakers.

Few people care about the sexual adventures of politicians these days. We have become more tolerant in out attitudes. More French if you like. Although some people might wish our politicians to keep their clothes on, it is no longer a realistic expectation. C’est la vie.

But the passionate embrace between Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo took place at a time when gathering indoors was illegal unless essential. A kiss is hardly an essential government function.

Boris Johnson is resisting and says the matter is closed. He has shown himself of late to be even more out of touch with the reality of life. He stood on the steps of No 10 clapping for carers and health workers, then gave the NHS a measly one per cent wage rise as a reward.

The breaking of rules is not the only problem with Hancock. The forthcoming Health and Care Bill is expected to give him, or his successor, greater powers to direct the NHS on how to manage care. More reorganisation of the NHS. Greater control by politicians.

We have yet to see the details of that bill.

But what we have witnessed is an emergent class of rulebreakers. Those in power or influencing power, those that makes the rules, see themselves as exempt from those rules. The underclass – those that are told the obey the rules – might decide they have the green light for doing the same.

That is why Hancock should go. He has undermined his own authority and credibility. It might have been a consensual grope but it is symptomatic of an attitude of arrogance and superiority by an emergent class of government rulebreakers.

 

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Friday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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6 Comments

  • One of the effects of Hancock apologising for the social distancing breach was that opposition party leaders (including our own were slightly wrong footed in their initial responses. Of course his serious failings in terms of life and death issues and long-term suffering (have we digested the implications of two million long covid sufferers?) give a different context to the rule breaking (still important), dodgy appointments (also important) lack of security in government offices (unsurprising) and his personal relationships (not for us to lose sleep over). If he is going to resign (or be invited to resign) it is not going to happen before Monday or Tuesday.

  • Brad Barrows 26th Jun '21 - 11:27am

    The author may be correct that most people are unconcerned by the sexual adventures of politicians. I take a different view when those sexual adventures involve serious breach of trust, such as would usually be the case for those who are married. If a politician’s wife can’t trust her husband, why should anyone else? People, including politicians, either have Integrity or they don’t. Hancock clearly doesn’t.

  • George Thomas 26th Jun '21 - 5:58pm

    Tories are governing as if they understood the state of the UK completely: 40% are going to vote for them regardless of what they do which is enough in FPTP to secure power, if they go out of their way to annoy Scotland Labour will lose more seats thus securing Tories further years in government and they can treat Wales with disrespect and treat Northern Ireland as disposable without losing popularity in England.

    I mean, Matt Hancock might lose his job but only when Tory party says it’s time and he’ll be replaced with someone even less competent and even less likely to challenge Boris’ view of things. In some ways you have to admire the arrogance with which they’re acting.

  • John Waller 26th Jun '21 - 6:27pm

    Since May 2020 I have been tabulating world-wide new case figures from John Hopkins University and local figures from the BBC.

    Hancock’s main crime is he promises but does not deliver.

    On Jun 22 on the BBC: “Health Secretary Matt Hancock says Covid data is encouraging, despite a rise in cases. He says the growth in cases seems to be slowing.”

    On the same day, according to JHU, UK new cases numbered 164 per 100k, i.e. 78,181 for 7 days, which is now higher than ALL West European countries and Scandinavia excluding Portugal WHICH TOTALLED 73,553.

    Two days later, UK new cases number 89,150 for 7 days overtaking the USA on 73,673.

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Jun '21 - 10:04am

    “Matt Hancock has reportedly used private email account for government dealings since March 2020”
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/matt-hancock-private-email-covid-b1873466.html
    “Matt Hancock is reportedly facing an investigation after using a personal email account to conduct government affairs, in breach of UK guidelines.

    According to The Sunday Times, the former health secretary, who resigned from his role on Saturday, regularly used a private email account for government dealings, thereby concealing information from officials and potentially from the public….”

  • I assume that everyone employed in a building with CCTV knows that it is there. This applies especially to those in charge.
    The fact is that most of us as we go about our daily lives are being recorded. Most people understand this and are happy with it. Many people feel more secure because there will be evidence if anything happens.
    The question in my mind is what is really happening in the cabinet.
    The most likely reason to me that there does not yet appear to be a swing to Labour is that many people do not see any reason to believe that the new prime minister would be different.

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