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Yesterday’s post covered former Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s final 48 hours in that post.

Marital breakups

When Harry Cole’s story broke in The Sun on Friday, Hancock asked for privacy because he wanted to spend time with his children.

Perhaps.

However, on Monday night, Cole reported (emphases mine):

The ousted Health Secretary quit on his wife Martha last week after 15 years and is now understood to be living with his lover.

Her husband is devastated:

Gina, 43, has called time on her own 12-year marriage with Oliver Tress after her affair was exposed.

Oliver, 54, the millionaire Oliver Bonas founder, is said to be “devastated” by the shock revelations, as family pals confirmed the split

A neighbour in Wandsworth, South West London, said: “Gina and Matt are giving it a proper go and Olly was left reeling.

“They had lots of friends here so we are all trying to help look after Olly.”

Hancock’s relationship seems to have been developing for some time, as the Mail reported:

The aide who kissed Matt Hancock in CCTV footage which ended his marriage and Health Secretary career was ‘asked two years ago if they were having an affair‘.

Gina Coladangelo, 43, is said to have denied the existence of any romance between her and Mr Hancock when she was quizzed by one of his allies.

Friends said on Saturday night the affair had been going on for months, despite others only seeming to find out when the steamy minute-long clip of them emerged.

One wonders why they did not get married after graduating from Oxford. They both read PPE and worked on the student radio station. The Mail explains why:

Matt Hancock’s mistress Gina Coladangelo was way out of the disgraced former Health Secretary’s league while they were studying together at Oxford, a fellow alumnus revealed last night.

Broadcast journalist Maxie Allen, who worked alongside the pair at university radio station Oxygen FM in the late 1990s, recalled that men were desperate to date Miss Coladangelo while ‘low profile’ Mr Hancock cut ‘an obscure figure’ and was ‘not someone you would mark out as destined for greatness’.

Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, Mr Allen told the Sunday Mirror: ‘She struck me as someone who would get what they want. He’s done well. This wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t the Health Secretary and she wasn’t lobbying, that is blatantly obvious to anyone who knew them back then.

Gina was very glamorous, very nice and very good looking – all the young men held a candle for her. She was suave, composed and elegant. Most men would have given their right arm to go out with her.’

The former Health Secretary, who read sports for the radio station while he studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics, was regarded as ‘low profile’ and ‘not someone you would mark out as destined for greatness’.  

He added: ‘Hancock did the odd sports report but he wasn’t well known. He was not the sort of person where he’d come into a room and everyone went, ‘Oh, Matt Hancock’s here’.

‘He had a very slight presence, not someone you would mark out as destined for greatness. Whereas Gina was very well-known and high-profile and memorable. You never saw them talking to each other.’

Mr Allen recalled Miss Coladangelo’s 21st birthday party at her parents’ home in Royston, Hertfordshire, and remarked: ‘It was a glamorous affair. They had a few bob. Gina is not the sort of person to get drunk and make a scene. She was very composed and elegant.’

Affair unfair to the public

The Mail‘s veteran columnist Richard Littlejohn put the affair into perspective for us in a time of lockdown:

Clearly this wasn’t simply a ‘moment of madness’. It’s emerged that the affair has been the talk o’ the steamie, as they say in Scotland, for months.

When wasn’t it going on?

So all the time Hancock was ordering us — on pain of prosecution — to keep our distance, not to hug our grannies or make love to anyone outside our immediate household, he was getting hot and heavy with his old university flame — a woman he’d put on the public payroll so he could keep her in close proximity for whenever the fancy took him.

So it would seem. He personally appointed her to her post, which required only 15 days of actual work per year:

Cross constituents

In Newmarket, Suffolk — the heart of Hancock’s constituency — people were unhappy with their MP. The Mail interviewed several of them on Sunday:

Today Newmarket locals said they were ‘happy’ that the MP for West Suffolk had resigned from the Cabinet as they accused him of ‘hypocrisy and double standards’ over coronavirus restrictions. 

Residents described how they had been prevented from visiting their grandchildren by Mr Hancock, while some admitted they only voted for him in 2019 to keep Labour out. Others were thrilled to hear that the minister whose regulations had kept their businesses shut had left the Government.

Graham Gladstone, 41, said: ‘He should have resigned immediately. The defence from Boris Johnson shows a contempt towards British members of public who have followed the rules and NHS staff who have had to be involved in treating people and the consequences of the virus. 

It seemed typical of Conservative ministers to see what the public reaction was rather than think about the consequences of what he did. Especially after he publicly denounced Neil Ferguson.’ 

Hannah Grimwood, 32, who works at Argos and has lived in Newmarket for 10 years, said: ‘I never liked him in the first place, I’ve been moaning about the man for yearsI feel sorry for Boris Johnson, he had too much on his plate and too many people telling him what he should and shouldn’t do.’

Miss Grimwood’s partner Gary Holliday, 42, added: ‘If you make the rules you have to follow the rules. He’s only human but when it’s happening a couple of times or more then members of the public are going to think it’s not fair.’

Cross Conservative MPs

Conservative MPs were also angry at Hancock’s hypocrisy. No doubt their inboxes were filling up with complaints from constituents. A crucial by-election is also coming up in Batley and Spen on Thursday, July 1, which the Conservatives hope to win. More on that later this week.

The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope had the story about Hancock’s decision to resign on Saturday:

The Daily Telegraph understands that this view crystallised in a “fairly direct” conversation with Mark Spencer, the Government’s chief whip, at lunchtime on Saturday, who told him that 80 Tory MPs had complained to the whips’ office about him in the 24 hours after he refused to resign.

Mr Spencer fed back the concerns in a call to Mr Hancock at midday on Saturday. “There were 80 Tory MPs saying he should go at that time,” a source said.

The number of complaints means that more than one in four of the party’s 363 MPs complained about Mr Hancock.

Sky News interview about funerals

On Sunday morning, Trevor Phillips interviewed a Conservative Cabinet member, Brandon Lewis, about Hancock’s hypocrisy.

On his Sky News show, Phillips related the story of his daughter who died during lockdown on May 11 this year, six days after Hancock’s steamy clinch with his aide. Phillips’s daughter did not have the virus. She was anorexic.

Here’s the video:

The Evening Standard has the dialogue:

Mr Phillips told Mr Lewis he wanted “to do something I wouldn’t normally do and put a personal, private, question to you”.

He continued: “Over the past two days, every Cabinet minister, including you, has come out to essentially defend the Prime Minister and Matt Hancock.

“The pictures that we saw were of an encounter on May 6.

On May 11, my family buried my daughter who had died not of Covid but during the lockdown.

Three hundred of our family and friends turned up online but most of them were not allowed to be at the graveside, even though it is in the open air, because of the rule of 30.

Because of the instruction by Mr Hancock.”

Before allowing Mr Lewis the chance to respond, Mr Phillips finished by saying: “Now the next time one of you tells me what to do in my private life, explain to me why I shouldn’t just tell you where to get off?”

Mr Lewis failed to acknowledge Mr Phillips’ loss, and said: “Look I absolutely accept the frustration, even the anger, from people and the situations they’ve been through.

“I’ve lost friends whose funerals I’ve not been able to go to, that is such a tragic situation for any of us to be in, which is why it’s so important for all of us to do what we can to keep ourselves and family members safe.”

He again defended disgraced Mr Hancock, adding: “What Matt did was wrong and that’s why he apologised and acknowledged that.”

Mr Phillips is covering for Sophy Ridge on the channel’s Sunday morning politics show.

More double standards

With regard to coronavirus restrictions, here is a video of Wimbledon from Monday, June 28. The stands are full. There are no masks nor is there any social distancing:

However, football matches are still restricted in audience numbers and require mask wearing:

And here we are, being told to wear masks in shops, when we are there for far less time than it takes to watch a day’s worth of tennis at Wimbledon.

However, since the Hancock photos and video emerged, some shops are no longer asking for masks to be worn.

The Mail reported:

Together with growing exasperation at the never-ending cycle of lockdowns, people are taking matters into their own handswith small retailers discouraging mask-wearing while massive anti-lockdown protests sweep through London calling for Mr Hancock’s arrest. 

Shops in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, placed signs in windows showing Mr Hancock kissing Miss Coladangelo, who studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford at the same time as Mr Hancock in the 1990s and is married to Oliver Bonas founder Oliver Tress.  

The signs say: ‘Welcome to House Interiors. Don’t wear a mask if you don’t want too (sic). Matt doesn’t’

The article has a photo of the sign, which is as amusing as it is true.

Hancock’s house was also targeted. It’s a pity he was not there to see it:

Police were pictured removing a sticker put on Mr Hancock’s London home, where his wife Martha and their children live. It says: ‘Our forefathers gave their lives to keep this country free, and you’re just going to sit back and let it become an authoritarian hellhole, over a virus with a 99.9% recovery rate?’ 

Television presenter Kirstie Allsopp pointed out:

the incident showed how ‘it was one rule for you, another for us’, tweeting: ‘I remember footage of Hancock whipping of his mask as he entered No 10, not even keeping it on in the corridors as school children were made to do, I knew then it was one rule for you, another for us.’ 

Humour at Hancock’s expense

On Monday, June 28, an amusing video went viral of a man enquiring of Hancock at the gates of Downing Street:

The Mail reported:

The clip, filmed by company boss Dan Wright on Monday afternoon, has gone viral and been viewed more than a million times already

In the video, Mr Wright asks the group of armed policemen: ‘Is Matt allowed to play? Is Matt allowed to come out and play?’ The smirking officer then responds: ‘No, he’s cleaning his locker out at the moment’ – to roars of laughter from his colleagues.

Passerby Mr Wright, of Chelmsford, Essex, also bursts out laughing while a second armed police officer quips: ‘He’s had his play already.’ 

Conclusion

It is to be hoped that the House of Commons will not forget the Hancock debacle any time soon.

Debates on coronavirus restrictions this week have been lively, even though Hancock was only the subject of one Urgent Question, which related to the security camera in his former office.

Julia Lopez, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office, also fielded questions from MPs about Hancock’s use of his personal Gmail account for Health Department contracts.

More on those tomorrow.

Episode 14 of Andrew Neil’s Spectator TV was broadcast on Thursday, December 3, 2020.

He interviewed Trevor Phillips, past head of the Commission for Racial Equality and chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the succeeding organisation. Since then, Phillips has held a number of other appointments in human rights, the arts and retail. He is currently managing director of Webber and Phillips, a data analytics provider.

Neil also interviewed Mark Harper, one of my favourite Conservative rebel MPs, who has spoken out against coronavirus lockdown and restrictions. Harper has served as the MP for the Forest of Dean constituency in Gloucestershire since 2005. He has also served as a junior minister in the Cabinet Office, an Immigration Minister and Minister for Disabled People. He was the Chief Whip for the Conservatives in the House of Commons between May 2015 and July 2016. His tenure as Chief Whip ended when Theresa May became Prime Minister.

Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, also appeared on the programme:

By the time the show aired, the mass purchase of the BioNtech/Pfizer coronavirus vaccine was finalised, announced and is now on its way to the UK.

A vote on the new tier restrictions after England’s second national lockdown was held on Tuesday, December 1. Mark Harper was one of the rebels who voted against the Government.

Conservative rebels

The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth said that the rebels’ vote against the Government, while not toppling the final result, ‘was the biggest of Boris Johnson’s premiership’. Had the Opposition (i.e. Labour) not supported the Government, Boris and his Cabinet would have lost.

Forsyth pointed out that the number of Conservative rebels ‘has been rising consistently’. There will be a vote in January on renewing the tier restrictions. Currently, many English constituencies that started out in Tier 1 before the national lockdown are now, arbitrarily, in Tier 2. (Kent is a good example: communities closer to London have higher coronavirus infection rates than those along the east coast of the county.) If these discrepancies are resolved for in a local way — splitting counties into two different tiers — Forsyth sees more Conservative MPs voting against the Government next year.

He said that vaccine roll out might help to quell the rebellion if it’s efficient. However, if the roll out is ‘bumpy’ and restrictions persist, the rebellion will increase.

Deputy political editor Katy Balls came on next. She said the Government tried to reduce the rebellion, through a Zoom call asking for unity, but that did not succeed as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosted the call, had hoped.

Economics editor Kate Andrews summarised the retail losses — up to £2 billion a week — coupled with retailers Debenhams and the Arcadia Group going into administration was a real problem. Pubs are in severe difficulty, too; only two per cent of them are in Tier 1.

Forsyth thought that the Government might make the tier classification more local but said post-Christmas restrictions present real concern, including the return of university students.

Forsyth did not see any easing of the rebellion until February or March 2021.

Mark Harper, leader of the Covid Recovery Group, was on next. He did not think that the Government had been as ‘transparent and open’ as they should have been. He has questions as to why hospitality was singled out as a danger sector but has received few answers. He wonders if it makes sense to have a lockdown, then a relaxation over Christmas only to be followed by further restrictions for a month.

Harper said that he wants to support the Government but cannot do so right now.

However, he has noted a change in the tone from the Prime Minister. Letters to the Covid Recovery Group have been more ‘collegiate’.

That said, there is nothing of substance in them, e.g. clinical evidence and a ‘coherent narrative’. He noted that the scientific experts’ opinions differ to those of the Government.

Neil asked Harper what policy change he would like to see. Harper said that the impact of the first lockdown and the recession it caused would have a worse impact on quality of life years (QALYs) than the coronavirus deaths themselves.

Harper says he sees no balance from the Government between health and economic issues during the crisis.

While he appreciates that this is a difficult time with ‘no easy answers’, he is frustrated with the lack of openness from Government ministers on how they arrive at their decisions.

He hopes that the Government will start showing the criteria on which they base their decisions and ‘a proper roadmap’ by the end of January 2021.

Scottish independence

The latest support for Scottish independence has risen to 56%.

Emily Gray from IPSOS Mori showed a series of slides demonstrating that Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) is far and away the most popular of any political party north of the border.

While Scots admire Sturgeon’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, Brexit is another factor in the preference for independence. Scots trust the SNP on all major issues, from the two that I named through to the NHS and education.

Conservatives and Unionists are not doing well in Scotland. Part of the reason for this, she said, was that they were not making a compelling argument for the Union, i.e. being better off together than as separate nations.

Neil pointed out that the SNP have not done well in terms of equality in health and education. Gray said that Sturgeon’s ratings have remained high throughout the pandemic. She has calmed their fears; therefore, any shortcomings are not in the forefront of people’s minds.

The Scots voted two-to-one to remain in the European Union. Brexit is deeply unpopular there. Neil said that some Scots would vote for independence as revenge for Brexit. Forsyth acknowledged that such a point of view is a problem.

Gray, however, made it clear that the pandemic was a greater factor in the yearning for independence than Brexit.

James Forsyth said that the SNP will win the local 2021 elections handily.

He added that Boris Johnson will have to address this issue of independence sooner or later. Perhaps the Unionists have to wait for ‘something to turn up’ in order for them to make their case. They would do well to ‘buy time’, he said.

Katy Balls agreed with Neil when he said that Boris does not ‘poll well’ north of the border, however, Rishi Sunak does. She said that a Labour government would have a easier time dissuading the Scots from voting for independence.

Forsyth said that a successful UK government vaccine roll out might change Scots’ minds against independence. Visiting relatives in different parts of the UK this Christmas might also help to reinforce the benefits and commonality of the Union.

Equality

Equality was the last topic of conversation when Neil interviewed Trevor Phillips.

Critical race theory — yes, Neil used those exact words — was the topic of conversation.

Phillips did not deny the use of critical race theory and said that he, too, was sceptical of the term, saying that it serves only to feed white nationalism.

He also says that it downgrades education. It is, he said, based ‘on anecdote, narrative, “my feelings” … none of which will change a single thing for people of colour’.

He called it a ‘scam’.

He said it is wrong to make the issue of race ‘entirely about white people’ with people of colour as ‘bystanders’.

Neil, somewhat apologising for his skin colour, pointed out that much progress has been made in race relations but that the theory does not acknowledge any of that progress.

Phillips said that Neil did ‘not have to apologise for being white’.

Phillips said that the UK is not the United States. He noted that a number of families in Britain have bi-racial antecedents or parents since the Second World War. He said that no other nation in the world has that number of black and white familial unions. Britain, however, does.

Neil objected to the modern treatment of the telling of American independence, which he said purported to promote slavery. Phillips agreed, calling it ‘complete drivel’. Phillips then brought up slavery in the US — tobacco and cotton-based — versus slavery on the Caribbean plantations, which he said was much larger, on a ‘factory level’.

Phillips said we should think of the current movement as we do Extinction Rebellion. He noted that Cuba, with all its black residents, has never had a black leader. He said the current movement is a front to ‘overthrow things as they are’. He said that, if they want to change things, ‘do it honestly’.

Neil asked if Malcolm X would have been a supporter. Phillips doubted it, because he would have disliked ‘the indiscipline of the movement’. However, he acknowledged that, he might have done in the middle of his life. Later, Phillips said, Malcolm X dropped the idea that ‘whites are intrinsically bad’.

————————————————————–

Charles Stanley Wealth Managers sponsored the programme.

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