No-one likes to be taken for a mug. To be treated like a poor dumb schmuck. To know that someone, somewhere is sniggering behind their back.
Last weekend, just about every one of the United Kingdom’s seventy million inhabitants felt a bit like that. Once flesh stopped creeping at the sight of Matt Hancock –former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care– groping and snogging his aide, an entire nation ground their teeth, clenched their fists and vowed they wouldn’t be mugs again.
Hancock didn’t actually break the law. He and Gina Coladangelo were in a bubble arrangement at work, and if you’re at work, you don’t stop being at work just because you’re not working every second of the day.
But even if he didn’t break the absurdly repressive criminal laws his department has been flinging around like confetti, he certainly broke his own guidance. Guidance isn’t law, but has been treated as if it were –under Hancock’s own direction– by every Coronazi jobsworth in Britain for well over a year.
It was amazing in the circumstances that Matt Hancock even considered remaining in office, and amazing that the Prime Minister didn’t immediately sack him. Boris, however, will never be in a strong moral position in sacking someone for having an affair. And Matt Hancock, being the enemy of Dominic Cummings, is a friend of Carrie and you don’t sack friends of Carrie. Not without Carrie’s permission, and we ought to assume that permission was at first withheld.
It was the thunderous reaction to Hancock’s fling from the general public that sealed his fate. People felt like mugs and they were tamping. Absolutely spitting feathers. And you can understand why. This was the absolute doozy of double standards. The Mona Lisa of hypocrisy.
People watched the video, and imagined Hancock smooching with Gina while security guards pushed them out of hospital wards, leaving their loved ones behind to die alone. While their businesses went bust. While their cancers were undetected and untreated. While they obeyed the letter and spirit of the rules, believing they were making a bitter but necessary sacrifice for the common good.
Matt made mugs of them all, and now they are hopping with rage.
Hancock’s masterclass in hypocrisy shouldn’t be seen in isolation. For many, it wasn’t an individual insult, but the final straw. They had put up with the G7 leaders jetting about the world, hugging each other, showing their faces and enjoying the sunshine while Hancock was busy cancelling June 21 ‘freedom day’, and they were busy cancelling this year’s holiday abroad.
It brought back memories of Dom Cummings’ jaunt to Barnard Castle, and ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson gallivanting around with his girlfriend at the height of the pandemic. It reminded them that, right from the start, it has been one rule for the VIP class; another for the little people. And it got right up their noses, like the PCR swabs they’ve had rammed up there time after time over the last sixteen months.
If one good thing came out of the affair, it is that we are rid of Matt Hancock as Britain’s Coronazi-in-chief. Even Boris thought he was “absolutely f***ing useless”. Hancock was in thrall to his scientific advisors –some of whom were experts in such relevant disciplines as the science of race relations, behaviour change or data governance– and gave them carte blanche to run amok across every department of state.
It was like handing over every executive power in the public realm to –by way of example– the West Wales Badger Group. Do that, and every policy decision will inevitably be predicated on one thing: advancing the interests of badgers in West Wales, regardless of cost to human beings and their livelihoods.
Hancock’s determination to prioritise reducing the number of Coronavirus cases –whatever the price in personal liberty, educational outcomes, mental and physical health and in the wealth of the nation– was just as stupid and blinkered.
Another silver lining is the return to high office of Sajid Javid. Javid resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer last February, fed up with Dominic Cummings, who wanted to sack every single one of Javid’s staff and replace them with his own minions. He is a great friend of Carrie, and his appointment –a good hire in itself– will have, by way of bonus, the delicious effect of seriously annoying Dom.
Sajid Javid is a libertarian with sufficient dedication and persistence in this philosophy to read and re-read whole novels by Ayn Rand; from beginning to end and with apparent pleasure. They wouldn’t put up with lockdowns in Galt’s Gulch, and Javid wants rid of the restrictions as soon as possible. A good thing too, because after seeing Hancock not giving a monkey’s about Covid rules, no-one else will pay those rules a blind bit of attention.
People won’t be taken for mugs any longer. What is good enough for the former Health Secretary is good enough for them. Whether or not the UK and devolved Governments officially declare ‘freedom day’ on 19 July, the time for compliance is over.