Matt Hancock did more than ‘breach Covid guidelines’

Matt Hancock has been gracious enough to apologise once again for ‘breaching Covid guidelines’. That’s his euphemism for having an affair.

But whilst it’s in the news again, however irrelevantly at this stage, let’s remember his actions consisted of more than simply flouting social distancing guidelines. It was embarrassing, of course, and his position did become untenable. Boris Johnson’s failure to dismiss him was shocking. It was a level of tawdry scandal best reserved for reality TV.

Hancock’s breach of Covid guidelines also fit into a disastrous narrative of high-profile UK leaders carelessly disregarding their own rules. Long ago, Professor Neil Ferguson suffered for allowing a woman with whom he was in a relationship to visit his home. A similar fate befell Dominic Cummings for his infamous traipse into Durham and back. You’ll certainly have been as stunned as I was over allegations 10 Downing Street hosted a ‘boozy Christmas party’ last year, and even intends another gathering this year.

In reality, such revelations are far from surprising. Personally, it’s a little difficult to care. Yes, it’s hypocritical, and undermines the government’s own desperate tone of urgency. The problem? No one wants to deal with Covid anymore. It was an ongoing joke for the opening months, that Johnson kept calling for one last push… That rhetoric has evaporated. There’s no end in sight. Conversations have shifted towards damage control. We’re probably close to establishing an acceptable annual Covid death toll. Whilst I’m sure several measures will remain permanent, and the mental scars of ingrained social distancing won’t heal immediately, attention-grabbing Covid headlines are not a safe long-term investment. Pandemic fatigue has left us all far more cavalier to the apparent dangers, and more preoccupied with concerns of old.

Anyways, the emergence of the Omicron mutation has kept them fashionable, for what will hopefully be a brief resurgence. It’s certainly interesting to read a cautious optimism between the lines, as scientists continually stress there’s no guarantee Omicron will prove more dangerous.

Returning to our friend Matt Hancock, father of three, he kissed an aide when social distancing measures advised keeping a two-meter distance. What I find more frustrating than Hancock’s breach of Covid guidelines, however, was the entire appointment of Gina Coladangelo.

A friend of Hancock’s since university, Coladangelo was appointed as a non-executive director of the Department of Health, complete with a £15,000 salary and requiring 15 – 20 days of work each year. She remained a communications director for fashion retailer Oliver Bonas (founded by her husband, Oliver Tress), with Hancock also failing to disclose their friendship when privately appointing her to the job. Curiously, four other jobs of the same title were still advertised publicly by the government during that period.

Hancock impressively evaded severe scrutiny for this relationship, channelling attention instead towards his Covid breaches.

Amidst fresh accusations of ‘sleaze’ amidst the Conservative party, Hancock is not gone. He still represents his Suffolk constituency, and sits, mask-less, in the Commons. The Sun, the publication responsible for first breaking the news of his social distancing blunder, has alleged Hancock also tried to secure Coladangelo a job three years ago.

Our democratic system is in dire need of reform. Public response to the Hancock episode illustrates an endemic problem. So many elected leaders committed serious wrong-doings and, in the grand scheme, face relatively minor repercussions. Hancock might have resigned and abandoned his family in the dead of night, but is still an MP and dating Coladangelo. The presiding point through this tangent-strewn rant is my dissatisfaction with Matt Hancock. He faced a remarkably lenient punishment and is considering another political push, demonstrating a complete lack of self-awareness and an absolute lack of anything verging on decency or empathy.

Thanks for reading! Have you been following recent debates over governmental sleaze? Let me know your thoughts on the current pandemic state. Feature image courtesy of 10 Downing Street Flickr.

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