The opinions expressed in this piece are that of the author and are not representative of the views of The Hysteria Collective as a whole.
When Matt Hancock’s affair scandal broke yesterday, social media erupted with memes and pleas for his resignation. Finally this evening, he announced that he was stepping back from his role as Health Secretary, while thanking the nation for all their hard work over the past eighteen months.
The country now has to ask whether this is enough. The scandal displays a complete dissociation between the government and the public it exists to serve. How could this happen? How could somebody with so little consideration and respect hold a central role during a time of such tragedy and uncertainty?
Hancock may have been forced to realise the errors of his ways, but many wanted to see Boris Johnson fire him, and strip him of the dignity of a resignation. The Prime Minister’s response was to thank Hancock for his hard work and achievements throughout the pandemic. He even claimed he was ‘sorry’ to see Hancock go. This is a far cry from the accountability that should be expected from an error of this scale.
Hancock led the UK through coronavirus, becoming a particularly familiar face through countless briefings and interviews. His policies, especially those on social distancing, haven’t always been met with open arms – but a video leaked by The Sun officially confirmed that he hasn’t been following his own advice.
The incriminating footage showed him embracing his aide Gina Coladangelo, kissing her against a closed office door and readjusting himself afterwards as the pair smiled. It is claimed the clip was taken on 6 May from CCTV.
Both Hancock and Coladangelo are married with three children – but according to numerous press reports, their respective partners have broken their marriages off since the news broke. Because of the personal costs of the affair, some Hancock supporters have attempted to play it off as a private matter between the two and their immediate circles. But this time, the public did not accept that excuse.
When scandals like these happen in government, it is not private or personal. Our government is supposed to represent us, protect us, and serve us. In pursuing this affair, not only has he undermined his own rules on social distancing and engaged in an extramarital affair while at work, Hancock has also disrespected the entire population.
Since March 2020, people have been separated from loved ones by masks and isolations, and have even been unable to say goodbye from hospital beds. Elderly people sat in residential homes for a year without having access to familial contact, and key workers have strived endlessly to care for us with no reward except a weekly clap. Treatments, including chemotherapy, were postponed or even cancelled due to pandemic restrictions, costing even more lives because of poor governing.
At least 128,000 families have been torn apart by the virus that Matt Hancock should have been protecting them from. But he can still happily smile as he kisses a member of his staff in the building designed to protect the public.
Beyond this, the affair raised serious questions about corruption within government – Coladangelo’s brother, Roberto, is an executive at a private healthcare company which has secured large NHS contracts. It encourages the suggestion that the jobs were not offered to those who could provide the best service to the country, but to those the politicians wanted to please on a personal level.
Members of Hancock’s own party spoke out against him, for his lack of empathy and responsibility – but not as many as would be expected after such a regrettable revelation. North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker was the first Conservative to insist on Hancock’s resignation, for ‘fall[ing] short’ of the ‘appropriate morals and ethics’ that come with his role.
Moving on, as Hancock is replaced by former Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and the world reflects, it’s unclear how much will change. But the bottom line is that these incidences should not have a place in a modern democracy.
We should be led by a team who prioritises the wellbeing of the people, and who act in their best interests. Secret favours and self-serving scandals need to be left behind, and consequences need to be given to those who cannot honour the job.
Image courtesy of Jordhan Madec.