Matt Hancock's bounced back from so many humiliations: GUY ADAMS

Matt Hancock’s bounced back from so many humiliations but, asks GUY ADAMS, has the music finally stopped for Mr ‘Hopeless’

One of the many times Matt Hancock’s name has lately gone ‘viral’ on the internet came when Kay Burley asked him in September whether a new round of Covid restrictions had made casual sex illegal.

‘You are saying that no social distancing is needed in established relationships,’ noted the Sky News host. ‘But what about people who are not in an established relationship?’

There followed an awkward exchange in which the increasingly flustered Health Secretary confirmed that government rules did indeed ban romantic liaisons with someone who wasn’t your normal partner.

He added that, fortunately, ‘I’m in an established relationship’.

That was then. And those remarks, which seemed merely toe-curling at the time, now feel downright preposterous in light of what we learned yesterday.

One of the many times Matt Hancock’s name has lately gone ‘viral’ on the internet came when Kay Burley asked him in September whether a new round of Covid restrictions had made casual sex illegal (pictured, Hancock dancing with a guest at a gala dinner in 2017)

In politics, flagrant hypocrisy can end careers. 

And if you thought those comments were bad, what about the married father-of-three’s tour of the television studios in May this year, when he told us all that, if we wanted to hug a member of our own family, we ought to ‘do it carefully’.

That lofty instruction to the great unwashed was issued ten days after the embarrassingly enthusiastic smooch with dishy aide Gina Coladangelo, which emerged yesterday, had been caught on camera.

For Hancock, this latest scandal is particularly awkward, since unsavoury libidinous behaviour is not priced into his political stock. 

That lofty instruction to the great unwashed was issued ten days after the embarrassingly enthusiastic smooch with dishy aide Gina Coladangelo, which emerged yesterday, had been caught on camera 

For Hancock, this latest scandal is particularly awkward, since unsavoury libidinous behaviour is not priced into his political stock

Unlike Boris Johnson, for example, he has built his career and reputation on being squeaky-clean, hard-working and, above all, energetic — a sort of Duracell bunny of Westminster.

‘Sometimes people say about Matt that he’s too Tiggerish, too like Tigger in Winnie-The-Pooh,’ is how his friend and great mentor George Osborne once put it.

‘Frankly, that is all about his youth and his energy and his enthusiasm, and in a political system that is full of Eeyores we could do with a few more Tiggers.’

Piers Morgan dubbed him a ‘pious . . . bossy school prefect’. Hancock’s response? ‘I can’t deny it.’

Until now, the most serious charge levelled against the Health Secretary was probably one of sycophancy: that he had risen to one of the great offices of state by hanging on to the coat tails of whoever happened to be in charge of his party.

That is why, the theory goes, he is the only Cabinet minister to have survived two seismic Tory coups, having served under first David Cameron, then Theresa May, then Boris Johnson.

Fraser Nelson, the editor of The Spectator, once noted: ‘Those who are not great Matt Hancock fans will say that . . . he can find his way to crawl up to whoever is in power.’

Again, this was later put to Hancock. ‘Guilty as charged!’ he replied. ‘I’m a team player.’

That is why, the theory goes, he is the only Cabinet minister to have survived two seismic Tory coups, having served under first David Cameron, then Theresa May, then Boris Johnson

The problem, of course, is that being frothy and enthusiastic, and keeping your boss onside, only works for as long as you remain a safe pair of hands. Following yesterday’s revelations, the opposite now seems true.

Though entirely self-inflicted, it is a tragic state of affairs for Hancock who, at 42, has devoted almost his entire working life to politics, aside from a brief stint at the Bank of England after leaving university.

He was brought up in Cheshire on a smallholding where his parents — who later set up a software firm for which he worked as a self-confessed ‘nerd’ — raised sheep and kept horses. 

This sparked a lifelong interest in equestrian sports, which saw him compete in and win a 2012 charity horse race at Newmarket, having shed 2st and sought advice from Frankie Dettori.

His sister, Emily Gilruth, became a professional rider, and in 2017 was rushed to hospital where she spent four days in a coma after falling and hitting her head while competing in the Badminton Horse Trials. 

Hancock has often cited the care she received as inspiration in his day job, saying: ‘One of the reasons we all love the NHS is that at some of the lowest points in our life it’s there for us.’

After leaving The King’s School, Chester, a private day school, he went up to Oxford and took a first in PPE.

A contemporary recalls him being ‘quite liked, as the butt of everyone’s humour who could take a joke about himself’, adding, ‘he had a strong northern accent in those days’.

It was there, while working on the student radio station, that he met the aforementioned Coladangelo who was also a PPE student. 

It was at Oxford University, while working on the student radio station, that Hancock met the aforementioned Coladangelo (pictured) who was also a PPE student 

His first foray into electoral politics didn’t go entirely according to plan.

A dyslexic (who was only diagnosed at university), he wrote a widely mocked election leaflet for the Tory Party’s 2001 election candidate in Guildford, Nick St Aubyn, which said that the candidate wanted to ‘untie’ the local community, rather than ‘unite’ it. St Aubyn went on to lose by 538 votes.

But Hancock got his break after meeting George Osborne at a cocktail party in 2005, when he was promptly hired as the then Shadow Chancellor’s chief-of-staff.

The following year he married Martha Millar, an osteopath who was also an Oxford contemporary and whose grandfather, Frederick Millar, the first Baron Inchyra, served as British Ambassador to West Germany in the 1950s. Martha’s aunt, Dame Annabel Whitehead, was a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret and later the Queen.

The following year he married Martha Millar, an osteopath who was also an Oxford contemporary and whose grandfather, Frederick Millar, the first Baron Inchyra, served as British Ambassador to West Germany in the 1950s

Martha and Hancock have a daughter and two sons (one of whom is Osborne’s godchild) plus a dachshund called Hercules, who makes occasional appearances on Hancock’s Instagram account.

By 2010, Hancock had become a vital member of Osborne’s team, and his reward came with the safe parliamentary seat of West Suffolk, where the family is largely based in a comfortable village home.

Within two years he had been handed a government job, and by the next election had risen from junior skills minister to Paymaster General, thanks to the largesse of the PM and his Chancellor.

His popularity with the leadership did not go unnoticed: at an away day for Tory MPs in 2014, backbencher Philip Davies gave a comic speech noting: ‘Anyone tempted to lick George Osborne’s backside should be careful because if you go too far you will find the soles of Matt Hancock’s shoes in the way.’

Despite campaigning against Brexit, Hancock performed a neat U-turn after the 2016 referendum, and was virtually the only Cameron-era minister to survive the arrival of Theresa May, after successfully inveigling his way into her good books.

As Culture Secretary, he made headlines as the first ever MP to launch his own smartphone app, which was received with ridicule.

‘Hi I’m Matt Hancock and welcome to my app . . . So come on, let’s get started!’ it told users, who were updated with his various activities, including excruciating videos of him exercising in a 1970s-style tight tracksuit.

‘One of Hancock’s many useful characteristics is an ability to get people to laugh with him, rather than at him,’ was how an interviewer explained his PR strategy, although that was before he was filmed performing a karaoke rendition of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now at a Tory conference.

Ever since the pandemic struck, he has become a minor celebrity, beamed into our homes on a daily basis. And he has relished it, even though leaked text messages showed Boris Johnson once labelled him ‘totally f***ing hopeless’

In 2018, the health job came along and — despite standing unsuccessfully for the Tory leadership the following year — he managed to retain it under Boris Johnson, thanks to his decision to endorse the future PM’s campaign after removing himself from the running.

Ever since the pandemic struck, he has become a minor celebrity, beamed into our homes on a daily basis.

And he has relished it, even though leaked text messages showed Boris Johnson once labelled him ‘totally f***ing hopeless’.

This latest bout of publicity he will be less keen on, however.

Of one thing we can be certain: the master sycophant will now need all the skills he can muster to save not only his job but his marriage, too.

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