- A special ConHome resignation survey is a raven of woe in itself, almost regardless of what it finds. Its issue is a sign that the Minister in question is in serious trouble.
- So with this one: 78 per cent of our Party member panellists wanted the Health Secretary out. That’s almost eight – a decisive and brutal majority.
- In circumstances like these, the Prime Minister faces dangers either way. If he forces the Minister to quit, he risks looking weak. If he doesn’t, he risks looking out of touch.
- The presumption as we write is that Matt Hancock’s resignation was Boris Johnson’s decision – that Downing Street tested the wind with an apology from the Health Secretary, and concluded it wouldn’t do.
- If so, this will be partly because focus groups and polling showed rising public anger; and partly because Conservative MPs were beginning to call for Hancock to go: internal party pressure will have been crucial.
- A further factor will also have been this week’s Batley and Spen by-election. Number Ten will have concluded that the Health Secretary clinging on could swing this hard-fought contest to Labour.
- However, we can’t at this stage rule out the possibility that Hancock himself had simply had enough – and that this one-time leadership contender had come to see that his position was beyond rescue.
- It may well also be that tomorrow’s papers had new claims about the Health Secretary that would have proved terminal. We will soon see what they have up their sleeve.
- At any rate, the Hancock’s resignation does not draw this horrid episode to a close for Johnson – the security question about how he and his aide were filmed notwithstanding.
- First, and least significantly, the Health Secretary going is a win for Dominic Cummings. The Prime Minister will hate it.
- Second, the Prime Minister now has an unwelcome Cabinet reshuffle on his hands. He will have wanted to save change at the department for a big, deliberate, strategic shuffle. He will be forced to improvise.
- Third, the decision paves the way for further media pile-ons about his own private life and public doings – such as the unresolved matter of who paid for his a holiday in Mustique.
- Fourth, and most ominously for Johnson, it is now open season on every senior Minister over whether they, at all times and in all places, kept to the Covid rules and laws when these were at their most restrictive.
- Finally, that Gina Coladangelo has also resigned as a non-executive director at the Department of Health does not answer questions about her original appointment.
- This site’s initial reaction to the revelations about the Health Secretary was that he simply couldn’t hide himself away from scrutiny.
- Hancock’s departure video is a stab at him, while not opening himself up to questions, at least showing his face – and trying to get across Government lines on vaccines, the NHS, and building back better.
- The Prime Minister will now hope that, with a new Health Secretary in place, the waters will close over this affair – and that the media bandwagon will move on.
- So much will depend on whether or not other there are other erring senior Ministers out there. Labour wants to get the sleaze vibe of the mid-1990s up and running again (as does much of the media).
- Consistent Conservative opinion poll leads show that this line of attack hasn’t achieved cut-through. But that it hasn’t done so today doesn’t mean that it can’t tomorrow.
- We said yesterday that a brief apology didn’t justify Hancock staying in post. Arguably, he has damaged the Government further by clinging on for a day. Though we suspect that the harm was done anyway.
- Cummings has turned his armoury of What’sApp messages, invective and capital letters on the former Health Secretary. Will Hancock make claims of his own about Johnson’s handling of Covid?
- As the curtain falls on a familiar scene of career wreckage and family heartbreak, who can better the greatest playwright that ever lived? “The evil that men do lives after them. / The good…”
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