We all know that Matt Hancock was a useless Health Secretary – even the Prime Minister admitted it. Yet he was unable to sack him. Over the last few weeks I have been prodding Jacob Rees-Mogg on why he kept his job so long.
Even by the standards of this government, Hancock was a disgrace. Financial mismanagement under his watch was incredible, including £37 billion of taxpayers’ money on an ineffective Test and Trace system and eye-watering contracts given out to mates and donors (including his local pub landlord). He hired his university friend on £1,000 a day to oversee his work – and broke his own social distancing rules with her. And he risked national security by using a personal email account for government business.
Perhaps most seriously, Hancock’s response to the pandemic was disastrous. He dismissed the warning signs when Covid emerged. He was too slow to act when the risks were obvious to everyone. And he falsely claimed to have “put a protective ring around care homes” – while in reality his policy was placing Covid-positive patients into these homes, seeding deadly outbreaks among the most vulnerable.
With this catalogue of failure in the public domain, the Prime Minister still did not sack him. Last week I again asked Jacob why he was still kept in his post even after the shocking videos emerged from his office.
There is a pattern here. Ministers behave badly, are incompetent or make serious mistakes – yet they face no consequence. I have repeatedly brought this up in Business Questions.
This is a failure of leadership from the top. Labour will keep pushing government ministers to behave with dignity, transparency and integrity. After the difficult year we have all had, we deserve this as a bare minimum.