Colin Brazier: No way back for Matt Hancock

Does character still matter in public life?

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We British loathe hypocrisy. And that’s why, if Matt Hancock, wherever he is tonight, is calculating how long he has to wait before a return to front-line politics – then he’d best throw away his calculator. There is no way back. Whatever credit he had with parts of the British electorate is spent and is wholly irrecoverable.

By ordering us not to hug our dying grandparents, even as he was groping his mistress, Hancock made dupes of us all. But he deceived one person especially. His presumably soon-to-be ex-wife Martha, dignified in her silence – at least so far - but deeply wronged nonetheless.

Is his infidelity any of our business? We’re told nobody wants a return to Victorian prudishness or priggishness. There is no market for John Major’s ill-fated Back to Basics. Indeed, on Friday morning – with the Sun’s front page still ricocheting around Whitehall and Hancock yet to resign – one cabinet minister told me we no longer live in a world where private lives are played out in public.

On one level that’s true. The days, for instance, when Tory Cabinet hopefuls had to pretend to be straight when they were in fact, gay, are long gone. Undeniably a step forward.

But is there any value in the idea that character still matters in public life? Are we entitled to ask a simple question: if someone is prepared to cheat on their spouse, are they more likely to cheat on us – the electorate.

Marriage is a very public proclamation of faithfulness. Many of us fail the test. Half of marriages end in divorce. A politician who wanted to add stigma to the woe of separation wouldn’t get very far. But what about a Bishop?

Surely, when the Bishop of Manchester spoke to GB News yesterday, he might put the case for forsaking all others.

Christianity’s all about forgiveness. But “a bit of a fling”. I’m not sure all the Bishop’s parishioners feel that way, but then the Anglican hierarchy long stopped listening to them. I can tell you one thing though: I’m not sure Matt Hancock’s children consider their father’s fall from grace to be a bit of a fling, nor perhaps in time his electors in West Suffolk for that matter.

That’s tonight’s Viewpoint.