Matt Hancock, Health Minister, mired in another controversy
Matt Hancock, Health Minister, mired in another controversy

Wyre Forest Labour’s Stephen Brown reflects on the controversy of the revelations about Health Minister Matt Hancock:

As the Murdoch press broke the story about Matt Hancock breaking social distancing rules in the most gratuitous way, and some people get extremely vexed by that, the bigger story seems to go untold. I’d also question ‘why this, why now’ when there have been so many other Government scandals erupt since the election.

Matt Hancock is the Health Minister in charge of our NHS that helped to write those same social distancing rules he broke, made public comment condemning a Government scientist for having an affair during lockdown causing him to resign, let thousands into care homes untested condemning them to die, has been found guilty of breaking the law over contracts awarded during Covid, and employed an aide, using taxpayers’ money, probably knowing full well her links to a business benefitting from NHS contracts.

Throughout the Covid crisis, and I have written critically and extensively about this, the whole Tory Government has used it as cover to award contracts to donors and made decisions on that basis rather than what’s in our national interest. From an initial lockdown that came too late, letting super-spreader events take place linked to Tory donors, refusing to close our borders in good time, promoting psychobabble about herd immunity, not closing schools, and repeatedly making those same errors, all lead to 150,000 of our nearest and dearest perishing – many unnecessarily.

So while you stuck to the rules, the Government who made the rules didn’t.

You stayed away from family and friends and loved ones, kept apart at funerals or watched major life events on zoom, and grieved in solitude. That the Government now throws it all back in your face and protects itself is unforgivable. Sadly, this latest Tory hypocrisy is nothing new.

What’s also not new is the way they protect their own – you’ll recall Dominic Cummings got his own press conference in Downing Street to defend the indefensible. And not one Minister has been sacked from liar in chief Boris Johnson’s Cabinet for any wrongdoing or the mess they have made with Covid or the £billions they have frittered away including on the world’s worst track and trace scheme. They hide and protect liars, racists, sexists, and the corrupt in our plain sight. Hypocrisy is part of their approach.

It doesn’t end there. This is a Government ideologically wedded to austerity and the advantages it brings to their multi millionaire mates. Since 2010 the UK’s richest have seen their wealth skyrocket by £500billion and public debt has soared to over £2trillion. And with Government help during Covid for their rich donors – that growth has accelerated.

Meanwhile, all the rest of us have seen is a growth in foodbanks and poverty, with some 4 million kids in struggling households, many in families with low paid insecure work. Note that 20,000 children in Worcestershire alone are eligible for free school meals. It’s a scandal, yet the Government only acted to feed them under pressure from a footballer – Marcus Rashford.

Since 2010 the Tory Government has also axed:

  • 500 Sure Start centres
  • 125 A&Es
  • 600 Police stations
  • 773 Libraries
  • 763 Youth centres
  • 471 Schools
  • 10,000 Fire fighters
  • 20,000 Police officers
  • 350 HMRC tax offices
  • 100 Jobcentres
  • 300 Courts
  • 15,000 NHS beds (which is a massive problem now)

All of this has harmed the social and economic fabric of our communities.

The cuts in the NHS have also been especially damaging to our Covid fight leaving us with zero capacity to deal with a crisis, and the hospital waiting lists are now a sorry testament to that.

Finally, in 2016, as they obsessed about Brexit, they deliberately ignored a massively important report on preparing for a pandemic. They did so because they knew it was at odds with their ideological agenda to defund and privatise the NHS and our public health care systems. This left us woefully unprepared to fight a major epidemic, let alone a pandemic. So they buried the report instead. An inconvenient truth it seems.

Despite all the hullabaloo at the 2019 election, this is not a new Tory Government. It is a continuation of the existing Tory Government with fundamentally the same failed policy agenda. They have just been emboldened by their ability to get away with things that merely 20 years ago would have brought down a Government, let alone Ministers. At the heart of that is their inbuilt hypocrisy to approach things with a “do as we say and not as we do” attitude.

We all now have a choice. We can put up with more of this and indeed the upcoming attacks on our civil liberties, or we can organise and campaign to get rid of them. And get rid of them we must, the future and well-being of our country, our communities, and our people is at stake. Enough is enough.

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