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1 March 2022

How did we forget how unbearable Matt Hancock is?

The disgraced former Health Secretary is on a mission to unite Britain in horror.

By Viv Groskop

He’s back. He’s wearing Steve Jobs’s polo neck. And it’s all so unbearable. What exactly is it with Matt Hancock?

In a filmed interview for the podcast Diary of a CEO Hancock decided he would appeal to our sense of decency in explaining away the catastrophe of last summer, when he had to resign as Health Secretary after being caught kissing his aide Gina Coladangelo on CCTV, breaching the social distancing rules he’d imposed on the country (and the vows he made to his wife). Surely we know what it is to fall in love? Surely we can see that, strictly speaking, the Covid rules weren’t broken? As Hancock said on the podcast: “I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines by then… They weren’t actually rules. They weren’t the law.” I mean, everyone knows they were only guidelines by that time anyway, right? Right, guys?

He went on to explain: “That happened because I fell in love with somebody.” Oh, that’s OK, then. Full Oprah mode was activated. He and Coladangelo, he said, “spent a lot of time together, ironically, trying to get me to be able to communicate in a more emotionally intelligent way”. If this is emotionally intelligent communication, please send me to live with the Vulcans.

Hancock is a man who is the byword for lack of self-awareness. Either that or he is a Machiavellian genius and knows exactly what he’s doing and it is simply his life goal to become a lightning rod for the bile of every person, of every political dimension. Either way, I need rehab to recover from Project Rehabilitate Hancock.

With this interview Hancock seemed to have twin aims: 1. To “own” his behaviour and semi-apologise to whatever supporters are left; 2. To make everyone else eat their own elbow with the shame of it all. It’s a bad sign when you long to hear Michael Gove’s “street credibility” Wham! rap to make you feel less soiled.

Then it got worse. Elsewhere in the interview, Hancock counters the idea that most people in politics are from privileged backgrounds: “Rishi Sunak, right? His mum’s a pharmacist. He grew up in a pharmacy. There are loads of people who have made it from difficult backgrounds.” It’s hard to know where to start with this. No sensible person has anything against pharmacists or GPs (such as Sunak’s father) but this is perhaps not the life Steven Bartlett, the podcast’s host, had in mind when he mentioned “rats” and “mould” in defining a background of poverty and hardship seconds beforehand.

In some ways you have to bow to genius and admit defeat. No one is ready for Matt Hancock to return to public life except for Matt Hancock. And, to be fair, no one is ever going to be ready for Matt Hancock to return to public life, so he might as well get on with it and do what he was clearly put on this earth to do: forge a glorious bond between left and right, both sides transfixed by his merino wool leisurewear, united in horror.

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