Colin Brazier: Matt Hancock give up the political power trip

'Sometimes there is no way back into public life and those with a bit more moral fibre to their character recognise that'


I hold an unfashionable opinion about the majority of our MPs. I think most of them are not actually knaves and narcissists. But some of them are, and they do the rest huge reputational damage. I’m thinking of one MP in particular, whose vanity, conceitedness, and utter belief that public life in Britain can’t possibly survive without him beggars credulity.

He is Matt Hancock, who refuses to accept that no matter how low one’s star has fallen, there is always, always a way back into the Parliamentary firmament.

This summer Mr Hancock resigned as Health Secretary. Shamed by the Sun newspaper, which had obtained pictures of him groping his mistress, even as he ordered the rest of us not to hug our dying grandparents.

Less than six months later and he’s back in the papers. This was him on the red carpet this weekend. It wasn’t a one off. It’s part of a public relations offensive aimed at his rehabilitation. It involves a degree of calculated masochism.

Time was when a disgraced politician disappeared from view, and performed meaningful acts of contrition, rarely to return.

Winston Churchill, for instance, unable to bear the shame of the failed Galipoli campaign, volunteered to fight - and very nearly die - in the Trenches.

I’m sorry Mr Hancock, but volunteering to go on the sofa with Philip Schofield isn’t quite the same thing.Mr Hancock is still the MP for West Sussex, and ultimately - come the next election - it’s for his electors to decide if they want to be represented by a man who so blatantly bid them do one thing - while he was doing something else, with a woman who was not his wife, nor the mother of his children.

By putting himself back under the spotlight, Mr Hancock seems to think he’s due another go. There’s no doubting his ambition. And it’s not a hopeless case. He’s clever and hard-working. He has huge brand recognition.

Google, this year, said his name was the most searched of any British politician’s. But brass neck isn’t everything. Notoriety shouldn’t be confused with probity, even if it’s easily mistaken for celebrity.Sometimes there is no way back into public life and those with a bit more moral fibre to their character recognise that.

I shouldn’t think Owen Patterson, for instance, will ever stand for office again.Mr Hancock would do well to take advice from another disgraced former Tory minister, Jonathan Aitken, who - like Hancock - once fancied himself a future prime minister, but who learned to let it all go. He’s now a vicar. And it was as the Reverend Aitken, that he said this a few years ago.

“Political graveyards are littered with the long-forgotten corpses of ex-future prime ministers. Any such label should make a wise man humble. In fact, it does quite the reverse. “The combination of what Shakespeare in Hamlet calls ‘the insolence of office’ and in Macbeth ‘vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself’, gave me a surfeit of hubris. Pride is the deadliest of sins and I was bursting with pride.”

Britain needs more people like Jonathan Aitken, for whom politics formed part of a journey of personal discovery, that brought him to a true understanding of what public service really means.

Matt Hancock, by contrast, seems determined to take only one lesson from his fall from grace. That we, the public, are politically callow and stupid. That our memories are short. And that he only needs to keep pushing, to be allowed back into our affections. He’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

To Matt Hancock I say: do an Aitken. Don’t just glibly say you’ve learned from your mistakes. Prove it. Stay off the sofas. Give up the political power trip. Do something else with your life.