By Earl Bousquet
This weekend, Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned after a newspaper published a shot from apparent CCTV footage of him hugging and kissing a senior female staff member in his office.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected calls to dismiss Hancock, describing it as ‘a personal affair’.
Unwilling to risk arguing the Cabinet Minister should be dismissed over a kiss between two mutually-consenting and presumably fully vaccinated adults in the privacy of one’s office, Hancock’s political critics instead elected to hang him for ‘violating Social Distancing’.
Pushed to a precipitous edge, the minister elected to tie the noose around his own neck and/or walk the plank if he had to, but he wasn’t allowed to either hang or drown himself, instead hounded into oblivion – and without even a goodbye kiss.
Yet, the ex-minister’s bliss had just begun: BBC World News reported on Sunday morning (June 27) it had confirmed ‘He left his wife…’
In a society where brilliance and ignorance happily coexist with selective memory and blind adherence to Conventions stemming from an unwritten Constitution, Hancock’s goose was cooked from Day One.
It was even suggested he could probably have legally erased the blunder by quickly marrying the apparent lady-in-waiting.
But in the end, Hancock chose to literally jump off the ‘White Cliffs of Dover’, instead of being virtually pushed over a precipice.
And his dear lady, who also held a significant position in the ministerial realm of the National Health Service, quickly threw-in the white towel before being asked to.
PM Johnson, a man of multiple known colorful relationships before taking-up residence at Downing Street, who chose to (again) tie the matrimonial knot on the eve of this month’s G7 Summit, would probably not have found it difficult to offer what he would have hoped would have been a convincing argument as to why he considered The Hancock Affair ‘personal’.
But even if he felt what the BBC also later described as ‘an apparent image of the minister in an intimate embrace with a colleague’ was not a violation of Social Distancing, he also knew Hancock was already cold turkey – and his lady was bacon.
Tabloid Brits, influenced by daily headlines, also have their own saucy ways of interpreting this Prime Minister’s words and actions.
One argued Johnson’s unannounced, entirely private snapshot marriage ceremony, held in deep secrecy and under maximum social distance just days before hosting fellow G7 leaders, was ‘less a way of avoiding a Mass Crowd Gathering than a response to the stinging criticism’ (just days before) of government’s handling of the COVID pandemic by Johnson’s former Chief Advisor, Dominic Cummings.
Cummings had fingered both the PM and the Minister at a public inquiry, accusing both of acting too late when the pandemic was declared, at the cost of countless thousands of lives that could have been saved.
Hancock was quickly replaced by former Chancellor of the Exchequer Savid Javid — another Johnson loyalist — while Downing Street started investigating ‘How the photo from the minister’s office found itself on the Sun newspaper’s front page…’
I tried to explain to an inquiring friend ‘Why Britain has a new Health Minister…’
At the end of my detailed explanation, she only asked: ‘They fired the man just for kissing his woman?’ and ‘What does Social-Distancing have to do with kissing?’ and ‘Since when?’
However, the state of COVID across the UK — although shoved on the back burner while Hancock was roasted alive – kept worsening, with over 95% of new cases resulting from the so-called ‘Delta’ variant.
On the day Hancock waved the white flag, the UK’s COVID score was scary: 4.7 million infections and 128,089 deaths; 275,597 Active Cases and 1,187 Deaths per Million Inhabitants.
The USA, India and Brazil still lead the world in COVID numbers, but across the European Union (EU) only France (5.7 million) has registered more confirmed cases than the UK.
However, while Hancock was literally thrown under the bus by his Tory peers — and still had to take a bus-ride home — the number of ‘Active Cases’ in the UK far outweighs France, which registered 95, 244 on the day the mat was pulled under the minister.
Like every public controversy brewed by the press anywhere, ‘The Hancock Affair’ will soon go away and the ex-minister will simply be another name and statistic.
But Britain, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales will still be reeling under the body blows of the domestic ‘Kent’ variant long being entirely overcome by ‘Delta’ at a rate of transmission 14-times faster than any other; and the UK-funded Oxford-AstraZeneca and other vaccine developers unable to produce appropriately varied vaccines quick enough.
PM Johnson hosted the G7 Summit at which the seven richest Western nations agreed to provide 1.5 billion vaccines to assist the rest of the world, which promises will take months to deliver while African and Caribbean, American and Pacific, Asian and European nations wait for Big Pharma to decide if and when to allow developing countries to produce vaccines.
While the UK and USA can boast of vaccinations passing 60% and speeding towards the 70% mark required for the ‘Herd Immunity’ theory to be finally tested, Caribbean states continue to linger in limbo with withering hopes of quick delivery, only just over one percent of their populations vaccinated while G7 apologists argue against exporting overstocked vaccines, since ‘Charity begins at home.’
The discussions continue across the Caribbean and The Atlantic as to whether a minister should be made to give-up his or her job ‘over a kiss’, with Europeans more minded to accept the minister should practice what he preached and Caribbean men and women more tended to feel Hancock was downed by ‘a low blow…’
Meanwhile, with the global figures at 180,765,742 Registered Cases and 3,915,962 Deaths as I ended this article Sunday morning, the World Health Organization (WHO) continued to complain that the world has the vaccines but governments aren’t willing to allow them to be shared equally with developing countries.
And the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) continued pleading for more vaccines to be delivered more quickly to the wider Americas region — that includes, the USA, Canada, Brazil, South America and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) — if the mainly former European colonies in this part of the world are ever to recover from having the highest proportionate number of COVID-19 deaths worldwide, whether in 2022, 2023 or 2024.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of St Lucia Times.