It was obvious to me on Saturday morning that Matt Hancock would have to go.
Often politicians and journalists are obsessed with an issue that the rest of the world is barely aware of. However, speaking to residents on Chantry on Saturday, everyone knew about Matt Hancock’s affair. None were sympathetic to the former Health Secretary. Many were very angry.
One man I spoke to had lost his wife of many years during a lockdown and wasn’t able to visit her in hospital. His anger that a senior Government Minister had been carrying on in this way at the same time is both understandable and completely justifiable.
The past year has been tough for most of us. We followed the rules and made personal sacrifices because we were convinced it was the right thing to do to protect ourselves, our families, and our friends.
To be shown that one of the politicians making the rules and telling everyone to follow them was flouting those rules is a huge slap in the face.
Matt Hancock’s behaviour reinforces the view that this Government believes there’s one rule for them and one for the rest of us. It shows the contempt Government ministers seem to have for ordinary people.
It demonstrates that Dominic Cumming’s trip to Barnard Castle wasn’t a one-off aberration but was actually a small window into the culture of complacency, entitlement, and cronyism in Boris Johnson’s Government.
Matt Hancock had to go. His credibility was shot. If he had to announce further Covid restrictions, who would take him seriously? It took him a while, but he eventually bowed to the inevitable and resigned.
But, if Boris Johnson had an ounce of moral fibre, he would have sacked Hancock immediately on Friday morning. Instead, he announced that “the matter was closed”.
The message from Boris Johnson is that it doesn’t matter how useless, hopeless, or compromised a minister you are. It doesn’t matter if you break the code of conduct or even if you break the law. You won’t be sacked.
It has led to a culture where ministers think they can get away with anything – and frequently try to.
This won’t be the last scandal from Boris Johnson’s government.