Artillery Row

Can’t Matt Hancock piss off?

It seems like a reasonable request

Can’t Matt Hancock just piss off? I appreciate that this sounds harsh. It’s not the level of discourse that a respectable publication should aspire towards. But can’t he? Can’t he just piss off?

To be clear, I’m not just saying this because of his scandalous offences against his wife and children. They were contemptible, and he deserved repercussions but the sad fact is that if we were going to exclude everyone who has been contemptible in their private life from public life we might end up without a lot of people left. (This applies to higher levels of conservatism than Matt Hancock could aspire to reach. The romantic life of Michael Oakeshott springs to mind.)

But you have to have a reason to be in public life. What is Matt Hancock for?

Not serving his constituents, clearly. Mr Hancock left them to eat kangaroos’ testicles on camera in the jungle. If he wanted to spend his life eating kangaroos’ testicles in the jungle for the entertainment of the viewing public, that would at least be a harmless way of spending his time. (As long, that is, as the poor kangaroo died of natural causes.) Yet Hancock insists on re-entering politics. He craves importance. But is he important?

His first problem is that he’s an idiot. What other excuse could you have for trusting Isabel Oakeshott with your private communications — a decision as preposterously stupid as leaving your infant with a hungry bear. Of course, the content of those communications didn’t say a lot for Mr Hancock’s judgement either. For example, his WhatsApp messages appeared to show that he fought a “rearguard action” to keep schools closed in 2021 — a policy that has had dramatic and untold effects on children’s education and emotional life.

The second problem is that Mr Hancock cannot help being slimily disingenuous. There are worse things to be. I’m not saying he steals dogs. But if he told me that it was raining I would go outside in shorts.

Hancock is making a big attempt to position himself as the representative of liberal Toryism

Hancock is making a big attempt to position himself as the representative of liberal Toryism. “We’ve got to embody the socially liberal, positive values that people under 50 overwhelmingly support,” he told a Bright Blue event this week, “Because if we don’t do that, then the Conservative Party will die.” It’s interesting how liberal Conservatives have suddenly decided to prioritise public opinion. I don’t recall them saying that Conservatives should follow the majority on, say, immigration in years gone by. Of course, he has the grain of a point. If the Conservatives just bang on about “the woke” and neglect issues that matter most to the material conditions of young people, they are screwed. More has to be done on housing, for example. But who has blocked the construction of hundreds of homes to appease local bigwigs? Ah, yes — Matt Hancock.

Hancock went on “The News Agents” to speak to Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall this week. Hancock interrupted Sopel, who had said “you were forced to resign over…”, to finish the sentence with “falling in love with someone, yeah”. This is like a thief saying that he is in jail because he wanted money. People would have had far less of a problem if Hancock had got a divorce instead of cheating on his wife (and not broken the social distancing guidelines that he had insisted others follow).

Hancock also took the time to lay into his peer Danny Kruger for his controversial comments at the National Conservatism conference. Kruger had said: “The normative family, the mother and father sticking together for the sake of the children, and the sake of their own parents, and the sake of themselves, is the only basis for a safe and functioning society.” On being reminded of these words, Hancock went through an elaborate display of sighing, pouting and rubbing his hands over his face. He looked like a Los Angeles billionaire’s daughter being told that she couldn’t have a second Porsche for Christmas.

“I don’t want to hear it,” he yelped, “It is so offensive and it’s so wrong.” Does anyone believe that this is Mr Hancock’s earnest response to an opinion that would have seemed almost trivially true to most people until the last couple of decades and not a display of performative hysterics? 

By invoking the divorce of King Charles III, Hancock also pretended to be such a dimwit that he does not understand that saying that X is the basis of Y does not mean implying that Y should only exist of X. Kruger was saying that most marriages should survive, not that all of them should, and while I’m sure we could debate this principle and its implications, it doesn’t call for such childish theatrics. This isn’t disagreement, it’s drama — and not very good drama at that.

You can’t trust Matt Hancock and he doesn’t have anything worth saying. Is there a reason why he shouldn’t piss off?

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