I am beginning to feel rather sorry for Matt Hancock. He has been vilified, humiliated, called ‘fucking useless’, by Johnson and a serial liar by Cummings. And now he has been caught in a clinch with an aide. But, if in the unlikely event of him resigning, it will be because of personal family pressures rather than being pushed. Firstly, Starmer was foolish enough to call for his head on a surgical dish. Secondly, the irony of a minister being sacked by this libidinous old goat of a prime minister won’t be lost on the public. Lastly, he leaves Johnson exposed because he knows far too much about the toxic mix of complacency, incompetence and headless chickenary that gripped Number 10 at the beginning of the pandemic. Hancock’s real challenge is to repair the relationship with his wife and family. Sunday lunch will not be a happy occasion as this is a story that will run for about a week. He has been a bloody fool, but this guy has been stressed almost to the limits of human endurance.
Of course, the carpet biting wing of the Tory party, led no doubt by freedom fighters Steve Baker and Desi Swayne, who have never forgiven him for the gross intrusion of making us wear masks will try and hang him on the petard of hypocrisy. These guys would give an agitated box of frogs a run for their money. Yet he has been a hypocrite, was in breach of his own guidelines and may be in breach of the law, for which he has apologised. But is it enough to save him? Perhaps. It depends how the rest of the story unfolds. And how long he is the story for. If it is shown that he has done a Neil Ferguson and had illegal stay overs with his squeeze when everyone else was suffering enormous personal hardships, then he will have to go. The difference between Hancock and Ferguson at the Monet is that Hancock’s tonguedownthroatery is pinpointed to May. Ferguson’s was at the height of the pandemic.
Most of the chatteratti predicted that Cummings would be thrown under a bus for his behaviour. Under the normal laws of politics he would have got the boot within a day. In fact he wasn’t defenestrated until he had upset Carrie. Now here’s another twist. The journalist who broke the Hancock story was none other than Harry Cole (whom I rather like) who was Carrie’s squeeze before Johnson.
And let us not forget Priti Patel. The allegations of bullying were upheld but rejected by Johnson leading to the resignation of the author of the report, Sir Alex Allan. She still clings onto office like a rat on the railings of a sinking ship.
At the moment as a human shield Hancock has the full backing of Johnson which has the weight and value of a Johnson promise, which litter the highways and byways like used condom wrappers. But the prime minister has nailed his colours to the mast and considers that this incident, in true Little Britain style ‘is the end of the matter’. So for the time being he has dug in. There will be no criminal investigation but he may be scrutinised by Lord Geidt the prime minster’s advisor on minister’s interests. I suspect that it will be curtains for Hancock. No, not a dismissal, just a replay of his verdict on the prime minister’s financing of the refurbishment of the Number 10 flat, which he considered not in breach of the code, but ‘unwise’.
Tomorrow’s Sundays (particularly Tim Shipman of the Sunday Times) will move the story into new areas. If it involves serious money (I have absolutely no evidence that this is the case) then the dynamics may change. But at the moment Johnson walks on water and Hancock has been thrown a life belt. But the PM’s personal opinion polls move south then that life belt might be found to be filled with lead. For the moment it’s all a matter of tryst.