In the latest scandal of key Tory figures flouting the lockdown policies of their own party, Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned this weekend after footage emerged of him kissing one of his aides in a Westminster office. But beyond the headline-grabbing kiss is a series of personal relationships which the former Health Secretary turned into lucrative professional appointments and government partnerships. Gus Woody writes that this type of corruption is isn’t going anywhere while the Tory party remains in power.
So long. Good Riddance. Thanks for nothing. With a whimpering Twitter video, a letter, and a nation collectively cringing, Matt Hancock has resigned as Health Secretary. Revealed to be having a longstanding affair with one of his aides, Gina Coladangelo, the Sun published an image and video of Hancock spectacularly breaching social distancing regulations, embracing and kissing Coladangelo in a Westminster office.
In response to the photos, Hancock began Friday by issuing an apology for breaching social distancing guidelines and insisting he would stay in his role. Johnson further cast doubt on any firing by accepting this apology and considering the ‘matter closed.’ Despite this, Hancock announced Saturday afternoon that he was resigning, ending the career of one of the main architects of the British Government’s disastrous coronavirus response.
Chumocracy strikes again
It is hard to care less about the particular sexual partners of Conservative MPs, after all, Chet Hanks prophetically proclaimed 2021 ‘White Boy Summer’. However, the position of Coladangelo cannot be ignored. Whilst it is uncertain whether this affair began before or after her position was secured within the Government, Coladangelo was made integral to the running of the health service. Initially brought on as a six-month unpaid ‘advisor’, Coladangelo was then made a non-executive director of the department – earning potentially £15k, if not more, for her role supporting Hancock.
What were Coladangelo’s qualifications for such a role? Being Hancock’s mate from Oxford University of course. Beyond this stint speaking on the University’s student radio with Hancock, there is little to suggest the competence needed to steer a country’s pandemic response. Previously having been marketing and communications director at Oliver Bonas, the company of her husband, as well as director at Luther Pendragon, a press consultancy, Coladangelo has a CV replete with the sort of self-aggrandising management jobs that smack of the incompetence we see reflected across the Westminster bubble.
The appointment of Coladangelo is emblematic of how the English Government has managed the pandemic. When our already hollowed out and stretched health systems were pushed to breaking point, lacking PPE, beds, or a clear plan, the Conservatives reached to the nearest outstretched hands – their friends, lovers, ex-school chums, wealthy neighbours, and the other capitalist barons in their immediate vicinity. Rather than a pandemic response led by frontline workers, nurses, doctors, and the scientific community, we see a cabal of chummy consultants, comms directors, and entrepreneurs fumbling everything from hospital gowns to social distancing rules.
The results of this have been an unmitigated disaster. No matter how many overpriced consultants were brought in, the plans always changed at the last minute. PPE was ordered, immediately to be found to be redundant or sent too late by a bunch of cowboy businesspeople new to the health sector. One of the most notable incidents in this regard was Alex Bourne, a past neighbour of Hancock, who after Whatsapping the Health Secretary ended up with a contract to produce millions of vials for covid test kits. This is despite his company having no previous experience with medical supplies and led to Bourne using a ‘bouncy castle company’ to set up a section of the production line.
A series of rich incompetents led us to the brink, leaving behind thousands dead, many left reeling from the effects of long covid, and our society even more unequal and exploitative. Coladangelo is a particularly egregious example of Johnsonian governmentality, where one is considered competent for the job by virtue of being in the social circle of the ruling class, not by being actually capable of saving lives.
Snogging whilst the world burns
There is something especially callous about the behaviour of Hancock in this case. Not because of the affair, but because it was done in the context where everyone has been discouraged from intimacy. The last eighteen months have seen social contact reduced in various forms, often with the threat of police action, all whilst Hancock and Coladangelo have been enjoying their dalliance, laughing in our faces.
Whilst many people were unable for months to hold their partners close, discouraged from hugging their friends and family, and worse, not even allowed to hold the hands of their dying and ill loved ones, Hancock and Coladangelo have been flouting these rules. Whether it is Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle or this particular affair, the message is clear – it is one rule for them, one rule for us.
The working class, whether forced to drive unsafe Ubers and deliver food, running themselves raw between hospital beds, or breaking their bodies ensuring supply chains still run, has been forced to bear the burden of this pandemic. At the same time, the capitalist class, the Hancocks, Coladangelos, and Johnsons of the world have been giving themselves ludicrous government contracts, buying up properties to let, and engaging in hedonistic flouting of social distancing.
It is likely the Sun’s access to a CCTV image of Hancock and Coladangelo’s dalliance was given with support from someone inside the Government, either enemies in the civil service or Conservative party officials. Many in the liberal press take this as a sign of the Conservative party being increasingly split, ready for a real opposition led by Sir Keith to take power. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.
Saturday saw militant Thatcherite, advisor to JP Morgan Chase, and ex-banker Sajid Javid given the position to replace Hancock. Coming from the more aggressively anti-lockdown wing of the Conservatives, Javid has already made clear his refusal to accept any intensification of social distancing, irrespective of it becoming necessary due to the rising cases across Britain. The new Health Secretary, a virulently anti-working class politician, is unlikely to engage with the serious lack of support for isolation, the joke that is sick pay, or the need for greater coronavirus workplace safety.
In general, Javid’s appointment suggests the Conservatives are doubling down on their disastrous health policies. Under the language of ‘smart technologies’, ‘efficiency’, and the like, the Government continues to open up the health sector to participation from private companies, massively increasing the army of consultants, directors, and other ineptitudes profiting from illness. By undermining public provision, stretching it too far, all whilst increasing the role of private healthcare, the Conservatives are slowly creating a two-tier system of healthcare, with capitalists getting the fast-track private support, and everyone else pushed into a creaking system. The appointment of Javid only shows the Conservative party remains collectively committed to this project and will unite to defend it given any real opposition.
The welcoming of Javid’s appointment by senior Labour party officials like Sadiq Khan shows the absence of any real opposition to this murderous government. The simple truth is consultants, bankers, and landlords litter both sides of Westminster, with neither able to conceive of a break from the sort of governing practices which marks this pandemic.
The case of Hancock and Coladangelo is the mask slipping. Rather than the ‘nation’ uniting in the face of the struggle against the pandemic, the release of these photos showed just how little the Conservatives could care. They hold the working class in nothing but contempt, all whilst filling their own pockets and beds. No opposition to this capitalist class is forthcoming in Westminster, no matter how many photos they leak to get their favourite MPs to the top job. Instead, real opposition will only come with the building of working-class power across this country, ready to take the fight to these politicians and their business partners. One day we hope Hancock and his ilk will face some form of justice for the last eighteen months. This photo shows the truth – the ruling class holds us in nothing but contempt.