MP COLUMN: Government shows it practices one rule for us and one for everyone else
Adulterous affairs between consenting adults are normally private matters and best left there. But what made Matt Hancock’s affair a matter of public interest was hypocrisy.
It was simply impossible and unprincipled to ignore the fact the minister who was most hawkish on social distancing was breaking the rule in private.
It was a matter of great shame that the Prime Minister didn’t immediately see that this made his position untenable and that Johnson tried to pretend otherwise. How could Hancock have ever credibly encouraged anyone else to follow the lockdown rules after what he was caught doing.
Boris Johnson’s initial attempt to say that the case was closed couldn’t be sustained and Hancock rightly resigned off his own bat and without being pushed by the Prime Minister, who is supposed to be the guardian of public probity.
If it were only about one errant minister then it would be fair to draw a line under a matter of great personal sadness to the ex-minister and his family.
But Keir Starmer is right to say that it forms part of a wider pattern of political misbehaviour and illustrates Johnson’s lack of judgement.
He backed Dominic Cummings when broke the rules by driving to Barnard Castle. He defended the Housing Secretary when he unlawfully approved a billion-pound property deal from a Tory donor. He supported the Home Secretary when she broke the Ministerial Code.
The latest saga shows this government practices the old game of one rule for them and one rule for everyone else.
Ministers fully observing the rules is important not only in caring for taxpayers’ hard-earned money but also in setting moral examples.