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.