Hancock had to go, in the end.
Not only had he brought the position of Health Secretary into disrepute by breaking his own “guidelines” (and we all thought they were rules), but he had allowed the Tory government to be ridiculed.
And nobody thought he should stay. This Site’s (admittedly unscientific) poll gave a 100 per cent result in favour of him resigning.
And now he is gone.
(I’m not saying he went just because of my poll’s result, but it does seem to have reflected the mood of the nation at large, meaning it was impossible for him to stay.)
Ironically, that leaves the woman he allegedly hired solely so he could have an affair with her, stuck in a Health Department job that she may not even be qualified to hold. We know nothing of her record as an adviser.
But he’ll probably be back very soon.
Yes – now for the bad news.
You see, Boris Johnson has appointed Sajid Javid as Hancock’s replacement.
Javid was removed from his previous Cabinet job as Chancellor of the Exchequer in February last year, after a row with Johnson and then-prime ministerial adviser Dominic Cummings over his own advisers.
The fact that he is back now – filling the gap left after the first Cabinet change since he left – suggests that Johnson has very few allies in his own party.
This could explain his refusal to sack his ministers; with only the Britannia Unchained mob (Patel, Raab, Truss, Kwarteng) and a few Brexiters to choose from, he can’t afford to lose anybody.
This would also explain the increasing wave of corruption in Johnson’s ranks.
They know he is weak and they are exploiting it.
Further signs of Johnson’s weakness are evident – and likely to become more so after Javid’s appointment.
We have already seen attacks from Dominics Cummings and Grieve, and the defection of John Bercow to Keir Starmer’s Labour (not a huge leap, sadly).
I’m willing to predict more backstabbings from what we might call more “traditional” Conservatives, as they realise an 80-seat Parliamentary majority doesn’t mean more than 360 supporters for Johnson’s fascism.
They have plenty of attack options – the fact that Johnson allowed Hancock to make so many mistakes, break so many rules (all right, “guidelines”), and generally corrupt his office shows that the prime minister’s judgement is highly questionable.
The fact that Johnson refused to sack Hancock in the face of the public outcry also raises serious questions. Other PMs have sacked ministers who brought their administration into disrepute, even though it meant hiring MPs less sympathetic to their own politics, but Johnson didn’t. That could be a valuable pressure point in the future.
In fact, there’s really only one ray of hope for Johnson amid this political and public relations disaster:
Hancock’s personal life brought him down, not his utter failure at his job.
This is a man whose three years as Health Secretary were characterised by rampant corruption – the appointment of an adviser purely so he could have an affair with her is just one example – and incompetence.
He gave contracts to provide the NHS with personal protective equipment (PPE) to Tory donors and friends who failed to do so. In the time he wasted this way, tens of thousands of people died.
He wasted £37 billion on a privatised “track and trace” system that still doesn’t work after a year. That organisation was run by Dido Harding, who now wants a job running NHS England – and if she gets it, she’ll ruin it as well.
He lied to us repeatedly about the seriousness of the Covid-19 threat, about the effectiveness of the government’s opposition to it, and about the incompetence of his own decisions (covering up his uselessness).
He failed to provide appropriate guidance to protect care home residents from Covid-19 – most especially from fellow residents returning from hospital but also from staff who worked in multiple homes.
I’m listing these examples off the top of my head, by the way – they are so obvious I don’t even have to research them.
But those failures aren’t what brought him down.
Johnson can take heart from this. It shows that the mindless mass of tribal Tory voters is still right behind him – convinced that his government is doing what’s right for the UK, even as it drags us into the cess pit of fascism and exploitation.
It’s a very small gleam of sunlight through the clouds surrounding him, though.
He has surrounded himself with corrupt incompetents just like Hancock, whose rampant self-interest will bring them before the court of public opinion again – very soon.
What will Johnson do when the mob is baying for the next one’s head?
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