Hancock out, Javid in

Under relentless pressure after he was pictured in a romantic clinch in breach of coronavirus restrictions, Matt Hancock last night resigned as secretary of state for health. He told Boris Johnson:

The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis… We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance.

He is replaced by former home secretary and chancellor, Sajid Javid.

Matt Hancock has probably had the hardest brief of any minister in peacetime. He never quite seemed on top of the task. Part of his problem, if Dominic Cummings is to be half believed, was due to internal cabinet tensions. And Boris Johnson proved to be the Great Hesitator, introducing restrictions always a little too late. Despite the mistakes, the barely functioning track and trace service and criticism from MPs, including Ed Davey, Hancock did not look vulnerable until this week.

Boris Johnson had said time, time and time again that he had full confidence in Matt Hancock.

It was a passionate kiss and embrace caught on a security camera that did Hancock in. Gina Coladangelo, the adviser he kissed, is also leaving her £15,000-a-year position as a non-executive director on the board of the department for health.

Boris Johnson had indicated that Matt Hancock had his full support. Ed Davey tweeted that the resignation called into question Boris Johnson’s judgement.

That’s a way lot politer than the comment by Dominic Cummings – who is alleged to have been responsible for Sajid Javid’s departure from cabinet in a row over political advisers.

There are other views of Javid. The consensus is that he is politically ambitious. His biggest challenge, other than the not inconsiderable job of bringing an end to the pandemic, is to steer the forthcoming health and social care bill through parliament. He will be attracted by the ambitions to give ministers greater control over the NHS. Social care is the government’s Achilles Hell. (Yes. That’s a typo. But somehow Achilles Hell better describes the situation.)

By bringing Sajid Javid back into the Cabinet, Johnson as avoided a reshuffle. But with the fiscally conservative Javid sitting at the same table as the fiscally conservative Rishi Sunak, and Johnson reportedly wanting to throw money at the adult social care problem, it looks to be a lively time ahead.

In the exchange of letters, Matt Hancock said:

The NHS is the best gift a nation has ever given itself, and the dedication and courage of the NHS staff and the ceaseless work of the officials in the Department is something we should all be proud of. We didn’t get every decision right but I know people understand how hard it is to deal with the unknown, making the difficult trade-offs between freedom, prosperity and health that we have faced. I am so proud that Britain avoided the catastrophe of an overwhelmed NHS and that through foresight and brilliant science we have led the world in the vaccination effort, so we stand on the brink of a return to normality.

In response, Boris Johnson said:

You should leave office very proud of what you have achieved — not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before COVID-19 struck us. Under your leadership, the Department has led fundamental reforms to the provision of care in this country… I am grateful for your support and believe that your contribution to public service is far from over.

* 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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15 Comments

  • John Marriott 27th Jun '21 - 7:42am

    As I reported yesterday evening on another of your threads. Without wishing to incur the wrath of Chris Moore , I would add that Hancock appears to have split with his wife as well. No “Stand by your man” here then?

    You know, all this is pretty sordid, isn’t it, humiliating even. What is it about certain people and their libidos? What I would like to know is a) how a camera was there in the first place? b) was it an official one? c) if not, who put it there? d) if yes, how was the footage (available on the Sun website) obtained? and e) do people REALLY care?

  • Helen Dudden 27th Jun '21 - 10:36am

    Yes people do care. The employment of the woman concerned who is paid by the tax payer, for a start.

    I think if it had not been in the workplace, it would not have been quite the same, it would have been private personal issue. MPs may have complex lives, but there is no written guidelines that its acceptable.

    I’m very sympathetic for all those involved, for many years I’ve written on relationship breakdowns, and they can cause much unhappiness. If this particular relationship would have ended is left unsaid, but Hancock and concentration must have been reduced during the last few weeks.

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Jun '21 - 11:00am

    “I think if it had not been in the workplace, it would not have been quite the same, it would have been private personal issue. ”

    Agree in principle but there are children to be considered (according to Hancock’s wiki article). Particularly difficult for the children when the (supposedly) adult concerned is a public figure.

  • John Marriott 27th Jun ’21 – 7:42am:
    What I would like to know is a) how a camera was there in the first place? b) was it an official one? c) if not, who put it there? d) if yes, how was the footage (available on the Sun website) obtained? and e) do people REALLY care?

    The Mail on Sunday has answers to those questions. The official security camera was already there before Hancock moved in. The footage was recored by a member of staff who then sold it to the Sun. People care because of the hypocrisy. It’s not acceptable for a rule maker not to be a rule taker.

    ‘Hunt for the Department of Health MOLE: Official probe into CCTV leak that doomed Matt Hancock as it’s revealed whistleblower gave footage to lockdown-sceptic opponents of minister who opposed easing Covid rules’:
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9729735/Hunt-Department-Health-MOLE-Mandarins-probe-CCTV-leak-doomed-Matt-Hancock.html

    The footage of Mr Hancock kissing Gina Coladangelo was caught on a CCTV camera in his office on May 6, and secretly recorded by a member of his department’s staff.

    After allowing a month to elapse, the whistleblower approached lockdown sceptics and asked them to help sell the incendiary footage to the media.
    […]

    …pictures taken in September 2017, just before Mr Hancock moved in, show that the camera which caught the clinch is clearly visible on the ceiling of his office.

    It is trained on the area by the doorway where the couple embraced.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Jun '21 - 12:02pm

    Personally he did have to resign. He failed on breaking rules and mixing work and relationship distraction.

    Politically he was better for health and security and well being than the econoimc right wingers. He, that is Matt Hancock, is an active one nation centre ground old school Tory. A member of the centrist, almost centre left Bright Blue.I prefer those to all these spivs and chancers he is surrounded by. javid is not a spiv or chancer. He is a good man in personal life as seen so far. But he is an economic pro austerity Thatcher plus modern nineties style!

    Come back Bright Blue hancock????????????????

  • Hancock could have resigned for any number of reasons but compared with his boss he was a saint!

  • John Marriott 27th Jun '21 - 3:16pm

    @Jeff
    One report stated that the camera was inside a smoke alarm. Having viewed the footage it looks to me as if the camera moves slightly as if tracking the pair. Perhaps it’s just a distortion of the recording. If not, it could be even more sinister.

  • John Marriott 27th Jun ’21 – 3:16pm:
    One report stated that the camera was inside a smoke alarm.

    That was speculation. The photo of the empty office clearly shows the security camera in situ.

    Having viewed the footage it looks to me as if the camera moves slightly as if tracking the pair.

    It’s been suggested that it was recorded on a mobile phone aimed at a monitor hence the blurring.

  • Jenny Barnes 27th Jun '21 - 5:18pm

    Even though he’s gone, I’m sure the publ;ic have noticed the general hypocrisy of the government, and the lack of concern for our lives. The Covid 19 case count is steadily climbing, from 2k about a month ago to an average of 15k/day this week. By the end of July if this trend is continued, there will be around 60k cases a day, with associated demands on the NHS and deaths, even with the vax porgramme. How many deaths a day do they think is ok? Oh, it’s ok , it’s only the little people dying.

  • Peter Hirst 28th Jun '21 - 1:52pm

    It’s tricky whether Matt Hancock’s personal life affected his ability to perform his ministerial duties. Ultimately it is for the individual to decide that. Government can however make it easier by only appointing ministers for whom this is not a current risk and welcoming resignations for personal reasons with no or little after effect.

  • Peter Hirst 28th Jun ’21 – 1:52pm:
    It’s tricky whether Matt Hancock’s personal life affected his ability to perform his ministerial duties.

    Whether or not it did in the past, it certainly would have done going forwards; his credibiity has been shot to pieces.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jun '21 - 10:16pm

    There seems to be lots of discussion about how silly Matt Hancock has been over the past few months, and the mistakes he’s made over the last year, but not much about the stupidity of Sajid Javid which he has made apparent in the first few hours of his new job.

    He will hardly have had time to discuss the situation properly with his scientific advisers in SAGE but he’s already reportedly said:

    “The country will have to learn to live with virus, and easing will be ‘irreversible’

    What he really means is that many will have to learn to die with the virus. It is beyond belief he is saying something so crass and so soon. The full facts aren’t yet known but the R rate of the Delta variant is very likely around 6. This means that 6 people in a totally unvaccinated and immune free population would be infected by one person who was originally infected. This is double the reproductive rate of the original variant. To reduce the rate to below 1 we would need to perfectly vaccinate 5 of those 6 people or 83% of the total population.

    However, while the vaccines are good, they are not perfect. so that figure is going to have to be at least 90%. Yet, just 60% of adults have received two vaccinations and hardly any children have received even one. Not that they necessarily should, but the virus won’t care about the age of its host and will jump across the age range from one infection to another.

    The numbers of infections is rising fast so the Covid pandemic is far from over. If SJ doesn’t soon show some intelligence the NHS will be overwhelmed in a matter of months.

  • Peter Martin 29th Jun '21 - 9:43am

    LDV at the moment seems obsessed with discussing the so-called “progressive alliance”, and if not that, it’s what Matt Hancock got up to in what he thought was the privacy of his own office. This is just trivia.

    The big topic should be the appointment of Sajid Javid and the change of course on handling the Covid pandemic. The government have obviously ditched their previous sensible ‘data and not dates’ approach and are saying that all restrictions will end “irreversibly” on the 19th July. The situation will only be worse then than it is now so I’m not sure why they even want to wait.

    It will be interesting to see how Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance react to this. They can’t possibly be in favour of it. It’s a purely neoliberal/libertarian ideological fantasy that the Covid pandemic needs little or no government intervention.

    If Lib Dems want to be relevant they should be speaking out against such nonsense.

  • @ Peter Martin Completely agree.

  • Christopher Haigh 29th Jun '21 - 11:13am

    @Peter Martin , I agree with you. Looks to me that the libertarian tendancy of the Tory party might have manoeuvred to get rid of the cautious Hancock.

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