Boris Johnson is off the hook for a moment. His moral compass when it comes to sex and relationships seems to be set firmly in the Georgian era. For now, he can play with his toy buses and watch as Carrie changes the nappies and breathe a sigh of relief that this time, it’s his health secretary, Matt “What am I meant to be doing again?” Hancock who is in the firing line.
Hancock being pictured snogging in the office (while telling the rest of us to stick to rules which strictly prohibit kissing your colleague behind your wife’s back) has taken the heat off Johnson, albeit temporarily.
It looks like Hancock is as dreadful at his private life as he is at dealing with a health crisis. Fancy doing it in the office when you are the health secretary – and you know that tabloid newspapers exist!
Years ago, I was rummaging around in a boyfriend’s sock drawer to borrow thick socks, as I always did, to wear with my Doc Martens. There I found a letter, from a woman, dated two days before, who was clearly having an affair with him. Why leave it in the sock drawer when you know your girlfriend can read it – and is a sock thief? And why smooch someone in the office when you know there’s CCTV? A bloke who cannot keep his wife and family safe from the public horror of a picture of him snogging like a randy sixth former whose parents aren’t home yet hasn’t a prayer of keeping the rest of us safe from anything.
Stories like this cut deep with anyone who has experienced a betrayal by a partner who has affairs instead of dealing with their issues. But none of us are infallible, and none of us knows how his wife feels. There are all sorts of complications and layers to relationships those on the outside don’t see and won’t understand. But we can be pretty sure that having that picture splashed all over the place will be pretty bloody horrible.
Whatever is going on for them, my heart goes out to Martha Hancock – who, on top of dealing with the emotional impact of this storm, also has to deal with cameras thrust in her face as she gets into her car, and protect her children. Any parent who has had a bomb dropped into their life knows that however much you are burning with pain, your feelings are squished up, screaming, into a ghastly hole for a bit while you attend to the emotions of your children. They have been betrayed too.
I’m not moralising about sex and who you have it with, but to risk something like this coming out at a time when all eyes are on you – and risk hurting the children you love so much – shows a lack of moral fibre, self-restraint and judgement which makes him unfit to have ever been in such a gargantuan position of public service (in case there was anyone left giving him the benefit of the doubt after he has proved again and again that a tapdancing donkey could have handled the Covid-19 crisis better than he did). And doing it at a time when singletons like me have been dutifully celibate is outrageous.
Usually, I don’t think affairs are anyone’s business but the people who are affected by them. I also don’t think an affair should necessarily be the end of a relationship. I’ve seen friends get through them with honesty, compassion and endless talking. We are all human beings, things happen. But in the office when you are health secretary, during an international crisis? That takes stupidity to the next level.
Almost everyone I know who has found out their partner is cheating – including me – has done so because they have been careless enough to leave a note in a sock drawer, leave an email page open or phone notifications on. Is this carelessness? Or was there a part of them that wanted, perhaps unconsciously, to be found out, because the drama of being caught is easier to handle than mustering up the maturity it requires to be honest and act with integrity?
Putting your bits and bobs in and around someone else’s bits and bobs is almost by the by. What’s really clear is that these men we have in charge don’t conduct their personal lives with maturity and with a moral backbone, so why the hell are they telling us what to do?
Matt Hancock can tell us all he likes that this is a “private matter”, but in the office of his highly public job? With an old friend he has hired to help him serve us? No. He cannot hide behind his wife and children here.Column, The Independent, Writing