Hancock incident: There’s much more than meets the eye - GulfToday

Hancock incident: There’s much more than meets the eye

Tom Peck


Peck is The Independent's Political Sketch Writer.

Peck is The Independent's Political Sketch Writer.


Dominic Cummings, Matt Hancock.

Maybe, when you’re the secretary of state for health in the middle of a pandemic; when you’ve been on the TV telling people they can only have sex within an “established relationship;” and when you’ve also publicly called for the police to investigate a government scientist who broke Covid rules to have an affair — maybe you should know it’s wrong to have an old friend as an adviser on a taxpayer salary and start snogging her in the office in the middle of the afternoon.

But, you know, maybe he does know it’s wrong. Maybe knowing it’s wrong, that you really shouldn’t be doing it, is part of the fun.

It would certainly shed a little light on some of the goings on elsewhere. Maybe Matt Hancock, for example, knew it was wrong when — having been asked by the prime minister whether the people being evacuated from hospital and into care homes had been tested for Covid, and he said “yes”, when the answer was actually “no”, and then thousands of people died. Maybe he’s always known it’s all just so, so, so wrong, and that’s what gets him out of bed in the morning, and then back into bed in the afternoon.

Look, everybody loves a politician getting caught having an affair (if that’s what this kiss represents), and the accompanying social media feeding frenzy.

And everyone loves, just as much, the attempt to make it a matter of public interest, to show that it’s OK to point and laugh because, actually, some rule or principle has been breached. Which it certainly has. It’s hard to gauge how much of the outrage in the moment is real, and how much is strategic.

Are people really and truly shocked and appalled that Matt Hancock told them they couldn’t see their lovers for months on end, yet has been caught kissing an old friend who also happens to be on the public payroll? Maybe they are. But to even be capable of outrage, at this point, is to still having something of your soul left to invest in the hope that some of these people, might not be absolute pure 100 per cent wrong’uns all the way to the very core. There has surely never been a time when there has been less rational basis on which to make such an investment. To be angry is to have expected better. That boat, surely, has sailed.

When a politician turns out to have told everyone to do one thing and done the other himself, no one, surely, can be surprised? And it should be clearly understood that what’s at stake here is a point of principle, not a matter of public health. Matt Hancock had Covid last year, and has almost certainly carried a high degree of immunity ever since.

He’s also now been vaccinated. It is not in the same league as Dominic Cummings’s alleged transgressions, which were to knowingly take COVID-19 from one part of the country to another, and to then expose NHS workers to it, which was to defeat not simply the spirit or letter of the rules, but the entire purpose of them.

It’s hard to tell, at this point, whether it helps or hinders Hancock’s cause that he couldn’t find it in him, back then, to say no to going on air and publicly defending the transparently indefensible, as he is liable to have to do again in the coming days.

At the end of quite possibly the most laughable briefing with the prime minister’s official spokesperson, which happened in private on Friday morning, despite the £2.9m briefing room that was built to host it, we would be told only that Boris Johnson has accepted Matt Hancock’s apology and considers the matter closed.

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