Matt Hancock’s Covid rule-breaking is only the latest reason he should go – he’s simply not up to the job

·3-min read
Health secretary Matt Hancock had a secret affair with his aide Gina Coladangelo during Covid restrictions (PA)
Health secretary Matt Hancock had a secret affair with his aide Gina Coladangelo during Covid restrictions (PA)

After news broke that the health secretary, Matt Hancock, had been caught breaching his own Covid rules, it took the prime minister a matter of hours to accept his apology and move on.

Yet, for millions of people the length and breadth of the country who have made immense personal sacrifices throughout this pandemic, the thing that sticks in the gut is the rank hypocrisy of it all.

We have all toiled together for well over a year, being as responsible as we can to keep each other safe, and refrained from some of life’s simplest joys – like hugging a loved one. Couples who lived apart were banned, by law, from spending the night together. Spouses and children were unable to hold the hand of a dying partner or parent in those precious final moments.

But just as the health secretary was urging the nation to hold firm for a little bit longer, it turns out that he himself was doing whatever he liked. One rule for them, and another for us. Again.

We’ve seen this attitude repeatedly from the Conservative Party. The prime minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, outraged the country with his rule breaking at the height of the pandemic, but Johnson allowed him to stay. Extensive evidence emerged of home secretary Priti Patel bullying staff members, but Johnson judged she did no wrong.

Less than two years ago, Boris Johnson wrote that, to “win back the trust of the British people, we must uphold the very highest standards of propriety”. But time after time, he has excused behaviour that falls well short of those standards. Quite simply, he does not share the values the rest of us hold.

Though Matt Hancock’s most recent act of hypocrisy is stomach churning, let’s be honest, this is just the latest in a series of reasons why he should go. He is a terrible health secretary.

On personal protective equipment (PPE), he left our NHS and social care workers exposed as he signed up to botched deals and handed contracts out to mates.

In our care homes, he promised a protective ring but put thousands of vulnerable residents in danger as patients with Covid-19 were sent back from hospital without testing.

On test and trace, the country’s route out of boom and bust lockdowns, he spent billions and failed to deliver – prioritising vanity testing targets and overpaid contractors ahead of an effective locally led tracing system, and utterly failing to provide financial and practical support to those who need to self-isolate.

Throughout this crisis, I have tried and tried to be as constructive as possible. Liberal Democrats have worked with the government and supported many of the measures that have been necessary to tackle this virus and keep people safe. This pandemic is unprecedented and would be a tough task for any health secretary. But with failure after failure, it is now clear that this health secretary is simply not up to the job.

The millions of families that stuck to the rules to keep others safe deserve to know that their efforts were respected by the people at the top, including the man making the rules. Bereaved families deserve to know that those responsible for the pandemic’s worst failures will take responsibility. Without this accountability, we undermine the sacrifices of an entire nation. If Boris Johnson is too morally bankrupt to sack him, then Matt Hancock must finally do the decent thing and resign. The British people deserve better.

Munira Wilson is the Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham

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