Hancock's Gone - What Next?
Tom Harwood analyses the fall out of Matt Hancock's demise
The Health Secretary may be gone yet the reverberations from this scandal are still ringing out.
A less pro-lockdown Health Secretary. A by-election in four days time. And enormous questions to answer over national security. The Conservatives will be hoping that the appointment of Sajid Javid as our new Health and Social Care Secretary will have cauterised the wound of the last 48 hours.
Javid is popular on the Tory benches and his inspiring personal story may play well in communities the Tories are hoping to win over. His birthplace is after all a little over a half hour drive from Batley and Spen. The Rochdale born son of a bus driver is back in government.
With personal politics more Thatcherite than Cameroonian, Javid will bring a different flavour to Cabinet discussions. From the back benches he has been more vocal of the harms lockdowns impose, and has more of an eye on the purse strings of the Treasury than previous politicians who have held his position.
While a cabinet post has been filled without the need for potentially damaging days of reshuffling, this will not be the end of the story. Questions now inevitably turn to how footage from inside the private office of a senior cabinet minister ended up on the front page of a national newspaper.
Whether CCTV or hidden camera, the national security implications are hard to overstate. And if a newspaper can get its hands on footage from the Health Secretary’s office, could a state actor? And if this has happened in the Health Department, what’s to stop it being repeated in the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office, the Home Office, Treasury, or Number 10 itself?
Getting to the bottom of this leak should become one of the top security priorities of this government. Ministers should be concerned not just about newspapers but over hostile countries with even deeper pockets, like Russia, China, or Iran.
Beyond government itself, the UK has one of the highest levels of CCTV in the world. It should concern everyone how apparently easily this footage has been wielded against someone in a seemingly secure private space without their knowledge. This issue raises personal privacy questions too. Any government investigation into this matter cannot be allowed to be swept under the rug.
For the sake of all our privacy and national security the nation has to know precisely what happened, who is to blame, and what will change.