MATT HANCOCK.

That is all.

We shall not mention him again.

It’s not as if the former Secretary of State for Health went a-shagging while his then-wife received cancer treatment. No, readers. That was Boris Johnson.

You cannot, readers, expect moral choices to be made by a government led by Boris Johnson.

Expecting that to happen reminds Badger of the fable of the frog and the scorpion.

A scorpion persuades a frog to carry him to safety from rising floodwaters.

Halfway to safety, the scorpion stings the frog.

The frog cries out to the scorpion: “But why kill me? Now both of us will die.”

The scorpion responds: “Yes, but it’s your fault. You knew I was a scorpion.”

Listening to Justice Secretary Robert Buckland being interviewed by Nick Robinson on Monday morning reminded Badger just how low standards have fallen in public life.

Robert Buckland, Badger remembers, was a decent and unspectacular junior barrister. Terribly earnest and politically ambitious, it never once occurred to Badger that Mr Buckland had it within him to become one of the UK’s senior law officers.

In fairness, he probably doesn’t have it within him.

But politics being what it is these days, the ability to nod along in the right places and to turn a blind eye to obvious unlawfulness is what it takes to get to high office.

Here is the relevant exchange:

Nick Robinson: It doesn’t matter if the public doesn’t care about standards. Standards are standards. You’re a lawyer, you’re a justice secretary; I suspect you believe, to the very core of your being, that you should uphold the law and uphold the rules. I’m putting to you that that is not the spirit in which Boris Johnson governs this country.


Robert Buckland: I entirely disagree. I wouldn’t be in government if I felt that the Prime Minister didn’t agree with me on those fundamental principles. He does.
I think the truth is that many people just don’t like the PM, and they veil their dislike in this sort of language. They can’t get over the fact that he is popular in the country and liked in the country and has won a resounding election victory.

And there you have it, readers.

Just so long as a government or politician is popular, standards do not matter.

And if they do not matter to the Justice Secretary, why should they matter to anyone?

It’s like a defence lawyer interrupting a sentencing hearing for a serial killer who murdered his victims in various grotesque and barbarous ways.

“Look, your Honour. We all know he’s guilty. Must we really hear about his crimes?”

When Faust sold his soul to Mephistopheles, at least he got to pork Helen of Troy.

What Rob Buckland gets out of being a shill for Boris Johnson (apart from a whacking salary) must be even better than Faust’s bargain.

Perhaps he gets to clean up after Dilyn the dog.

It saddens Badger that several otherwise decent people appear to have lost their sense of judgement, decency, and outrage by proximity to power.

However, it’s not as if Welsh national politics is much better.

It’s just the UK media doesn’t think it’s important enough to report, and the Welsh national media are in an incestuous relationship with the Welsh political parties.

For example, without naming names: one current Welsh Government Minister responsible for a highly controversial and divisive national policy is in a domestic relationship with the former civil servant in their department who drew up that policy’s framework. Their relationship was only made public after the civil servant moved out of the Minister’s department long after the Minister endorsed the policy their partner prepared.

That’s a transparent conflict of professional and personal interest, both widely known and conspicuously overlooked.

Or how about one then-AM losing their driving licence after fleeing the scene of domestic abuse meted out to them at the hands of another politician? The incident did not prevent the perpetrator of the abuse from being selected as a candidate for the Assembly and serving as an AM. In the same party as their victim.

And what of the ostentatiously pious and moralising opposition frontbencher in the Senedd who presumably devoutly thanks the Lord nobody reported his extra-marital affair with a staff member.

You can guarantee that if a backwater hack like Badger knows about them, plenty of others do.

You see, readers: that’s the sort of thing that makes Badger despair.

It’s not that we hold our politicians to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. It’s not even that politicians’ worst behaviour is the same as so many others’ worst.

It’s the hypocrisy of the national media piling on when ‘an open secret’ becomes a public story and the desperate and pathetic word-twisting excuses doled out by ministers and political hacks of every description when a scandal emerges.

Badger’s view about the relationship between political scandals, corruption, pork-barrelling, and private vice in government and what it says about our politicians and our national media is best expressed as a simple question.

Do fish think about the water in which they swim?

No matter how polluted the water, there are outcrops of hope, sanity, and genuine goodness in every moral sea.

Badger’s problem with current politics is that a change in the political climate is slowly engulfing those islands of decency like the Indian and Pacific Oceans that are drowning coral atolls.

Like climate change, Badger hopes it’s not too late to turn back the tide and salvage something from what remains.

However, he can’t help thinking that the system change is so vast, so inter-connected, so far advanced that it’s all a bit too late to salvage much of anything.

We can meaningfully change the future if enough people want to change it and look beyond the short term.

And that applies equally to the political climate and the global one.

Next week, Badger is on holiday, so his friend Cadno will appear on this page.

You’ll like Cadno, readers.

He’s far meaner than Badger.