Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Mandy Rhodes
02 July 2021
Indecent exposure: The Hancock controversy has shown just how devoid of decency this government really is

Matt Hancock smiles during a television interview in May as his aide Gina Coladangelo looks on Picture: Alamy

Indecent exposure: The Hancock controversy has shown just how devoid of decency this government really is

Matt Hancock may have kissed his own career goodbye – although he is a perpetual survivor of the greasy pole, so watch this space – but the complete disregard by this loathsome Lothario and his fellow Tory crew for the integrity of the governance of this fatigued and compliant nation leaves us all screwed. 

Putting aside the question of Hancock’s morality, for adulterous affairs and their exposure only really pain those directly entangled, this is a government bereft of principle, devoid of decency and staffed by a collection of bargain-basement David Brents.

Hancock’s fumbling half hour isn’t just the same old hackneyed story of a man whose ‘attractiveness’ grew, exponentially, relative to his elevation to power and influence.

This is a tale of a government so engulfed in corruption and sleaze that a prime minister can look at CCTV pictures of his health secretary locked in an embrace in a government building and instead of automatically triggering a call to MI5, he sees a man after his own heart.

Here’s a prime minister that has been caught so many times with his pants down that he sees only what’s in front of him, knows how that feels and with a perfunctory apology from Hancock for the fallout his impropriety may have caused, considers matters closed.

Here’s a man that doesn’t see a lawmaker breaking the rules.

Doesn’t see a minister colluding in cronyism. Doesn’t see a cheat who employed his lover as a non-executive director to effectively mark his own report card.

Is blind to the phony sanctimony of a health minister making a mockery of the months of hardship this country has endured through a lockdown he enforced.

Doesn’t see how he is a whited sepulchre by ignoring the social distancing rules that have barred families being together, even when a loved one is taking their dying breath.

Doesn’t see the rank hypocrisy, the potential for corruption or the seeding of lies and the evasion of loyalty.

He sees none of that. He sees what he sees when he looks in a mirror. He sees a fellow traveller.

One rule for us and one rule for them.

We all understand why Boris Johnston is no moral arbiter, but when his own skewed view of right and wrong clouds his judgement on questions of national import, then it matters.

It matters for all the promises he has made that have been broken and for the lives that have been torn asunder.

This is a government bereft of principle, devoid of decency and staffed by a collection of bargain-basement David Brents

It matters because decisions made by governments have human consequences and, as prime minister, he should recognise that.

Johnson said he would get Brexit done. On that, he has kept his word. But he also promised EU citizens that their right to stay would be automatic. A mere formality. 

That was a lie.

Erika Goulden is 83 and has dementia. She lives in sheltered housing in Liverpool with her husband, Bob, who is 86.

They met in 1962 in Germany when she worked for the British Army as a translator and he was in the Royal Artillery. They fell in love, moved back to England, married and had two children.

Erika trained to be a teacher and worked in adult education, teaching in colleges and for a time in Walton prison.

Erika Goulden - who has lived in the UK since the 1960s - had to apply for settled status

She later published poetry which won prizes. She wrote a book, Susato, about Nazi Germany and she has spent all her adult life in Liverpool trying to build bridges between the country of her birth and the country she chose to live, work and bring up her family in.

She has been called a ‘Nazi’, a ‘Kraut’, and a ‘Jew slayer’ by strangers in the street. Not once has she retaliated because she understood, better than most, that ignorance is often born of lies.

Erika is a proud adopted Scouser. She adores the Queen and treasures a letter she received from her thanking her for a copy of Susato which she gave to her at a meeting of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, of which Erika is a longstanding member. 

Her son, Michael, trained to be a doctor. He became an anaesthetist. He has worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic. And he is tired.

This week, he had to fill in a form so his mother could stay in the UK without being classed as an illegal immigrant. She has lived here for 58 years.

Her German passport, the thousands of pounds paid in income tax, her NI contributions, her years of public service, her love of the Queen and country, her marriage, her children, none of it gave her an automatic right to stay in Britain, like Johnson had claimed.

Like many Germans born in the 1930s, growing up in a country run by the Nazis, Erika has an inbuilt fear of what it’s like to have to prove who you are to the authorities.

As a woman now in her 80s and with her mind confused by senility, she is being forced to relive that terror and her son had to walk her through the application form. And as he took photographs, as requested by the ‘settled status’ form, of her face, moving from the front and then from side to side, she become upset. It jogged hateful memories. Michael, a doctor battle-scarred by working through the pain of this pandemic, was in tears.

Erika is not a number. She has lived a long and happy life in the UK, where she has contributed and enriched its cultural fabric.

Johnson’s lie has reduced her life to a form to be filled in and to a deadline. It’s setting her apart, questioning her right to stay, and in the context of a hostile policy environment, it is also leaving enmity, fear and exhaustion in its wake. It has also all the potential to become a second Windrush-type scandal. 

Hancock’s grubby personal life is immaterial, but in its detail, it evinces character traits that are indicative of a government that cares so little for decency, veracity, honesty and respect that it is prepared to let people like Erika think they are not welcome.

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Stay in the know with our fortnightly magazine

Stay in the know with our fortnightly magazine


Popular reads
Back to top