On 25th June 2021, Matt Hancock, former health secretary, was caught on CCTV kissing Gina Coladangelo, the former non-executive director of the Department of Health and Social Care, in his office and the images gained widespread attention when they were published in the Sun and the video went viral. The video was from the 6th of May where social distancing rules were still in place. After an unsurprising amount of growing pressure, the next day, Hancock, resigned as health secretary.
But despite the fact that he cheated on his wife (whom he has 3 children with) and broke the social distancing rules he put in place, let's focus on one thing today.
The Ministerial Code.
The Ministerial Code is a document setting out "rules" and standards for government ministers in the United Kingdom. And Matt Hancock broke it. The Ministerial code says that ministers "are expected to maintain high standards of behaviour and to behave in a way that upholds the highest standards of propriety" (Which Hancock did not do). But it also says that they "must ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests, financial or otherwise". Both of these points perfectly oppose the actions Hancock committed that led to his resignation and while an investigation will most likely not happen as the Government wants to move on from this scandal as quickly as possible, judging by the comments in the code it is quite clear that Matt Hancock did break the Ministerial Code.
But why is this important? After all the Ministerial Code is just a set of rules and some unreasonable rules are meant to be broken?
Rules are meant to be broken does not apply in any case. But especially this one.
This is not the first time a minister has broken the ministerial code. The nation's favourite prime minister, Boris Johnson, has supposedly broken the code in the past. One of these occasions is when it said the Government must publish a statement “covering relevant ministers’ interests” twice a year. He was late to register financial interests on two properties. And while he was cleared of breaking the ministerial code for not releasing where the funds to refurbish Downing Street came from it is troubling that it took so long to find out where he got £200,000 from to do this.
What does this say about our ministers in Parliament? They cannot abide by the rules they decided to follow when they became ministers. What is it due to? Feelings of superiority?
It is a huge presentation issue for the Government who are tarnishing the reputation of their cabinet every time an inquiry is made, every time a scandal arises and every time nothing is done about it.
While the "highest standards of propriety" might seem like too high expectations, it is fairly simple for fully grown adults who should be aware of the status and responsibility they wield to not cheat, lie and harass.
So what is the Government going to do about it? Impose more sanctions on ministers if this type of behaviour occurs? Do more investigations into ministers' personal lives?
Hopefully something, most likely nothing.