I have never met Matt Hancock - nor do I have any particular wish to do so. I have seen him on television, read about him and listened to him periodically. He seems reasonably civilised and human; how he ranks in the intelligence or capability steaks - I don't know. He was a member of Borris Johnson's cabinet, which would be a big minus point against him in my books because it speaks of inconsistent morals and conveniently patchy and low integrity - in general, untrustworthy.
Being caught snogging his girlfriend whilst still married on a close circuit TV was embarrassing for him, to say the least, and painful watching for everyone, more particularly his wife. But I would also question the ethics of placing a CCTV camera in his office. And as for deciding to walk away from his responsibilities as a sitting MP - to volunteer to partake in a TV programme for minor celebrities wishing to up their recognition profile was lamentable behaviour in my book, no matter the prize. He already had a full-time job representing his constituents.
It is entirely legitimate to question his and his fellow cabinet minister's decisions during the Covid lockdowns. But what the value will be of a full inquiry, set against the cost - I still need to be convinced. Being in full lockdown was a decision taken in everybody's best interest. Whether it was a good or bad decision is only helpful for learning. It was a group of people, love them or loath them, doing their best in a pretty unique situation - and hindsight is only really useful for learning.
But no matter what I think of Mr Hancock or where on the scale of human usefulness I place him, what sticks in my craw here is a journalist who has undertaken to write a book, signed an NDA and then spilt the beans for money, and no matter how much she denies it - money was involved. And I am not sure the Daily Telegraph comes out of this smelling of roses either. But Ms Isobel Oakeshott (despite Julia Hartley-Brewer trying to defend the indefensible) has trashed any claim she may have had to be a journalist of integrity. Even if she had met Mr Hancock face to face and told him what she felt she had to do - but no, by her own confession, she did not say a word to him, and then when her revelations were made public via the Telegraph, she still and cowardly refused to talk to him.
In terms of human behaviour, the values we encourage others to espouse; kindness, honesty, commitment, reliability, integrity - she sets a terrible example. Many may dislike Matt Hancock intensely, but we are not at war with Mr Hancock, and Ms Oakshott is not a spy being brave, sacrificing, and risking her life for her country. She is a journalist and, as is now apparent, an opportunist, and it seems to me she lied and broke her word for fame and money; in the "trust" stakes, out of ten - Ms Oakshott scores minus ten. This is not her first rodeo either - by all accounts, she has proved her untrustworthiness before. Perhaps she may, in time, reflect on that ancient adage - what goes around, comes around.
So, however poorly Matt Hancock has behaved, which is not really in question - Ms Oakshott has betrayed Journalism as an occupation. We need to be able to trust our journalists because the free press is an integral part of our democracy. Whatever her scoop, she has damaged her profession, and I hold her in no better regard than I do, Mr Hancock.
I find myself asking; why can people not be honest and upfront? What pushes good, honest, hard-working, well-meaning souls off the rails of righteousness into conniving, lying, greedy morons? More often than not, the answer is an excessive desire for more; more money, more power, and more position. Shame - and shame is what we all need to feel because all of us, to some degree, are guilty of this on occasion.
Democracy depends on a collective understanding and acceptance of doing what is in the best interests of everyone with the minimum interference in individual lives. It is about maintaining the freedom for the individual to think, say and do while not harming anyone else.
We, the individuals, elect Parliamentarians to look after our collective best interests but with minimal interference.
We have the lawmakers, our parliamentarians, and their executive, the civil service. We have our Laws enforced by our judiciary and law enforcement agencies; our constitutional monarchy, which in theory, could be a final check on laws passed, and we have our free press and the electorate - all of us aged over eighteen. We stand in the final judgement of the elected government. The parliamentarians serve us. Those are our checks and balances for a free democracy, which has worked pretty well up until now.
Issues arise when values are disregarded, primarily; honesty and integrity. Disregarding these values erodes trust. When MPs lie, cheat or exaggerate - when civil servants compromise themselves - when journalists betray trusts - when the judiciary becomes political - when policemen and policewomen are plainly unfit for the power they hold, that is when democracy falters.
Democracy thrives when we have good leadership that builds and maintains trust. That happens when leaders are honest and truthful. When they don't lie to the electorate, making wild promises to entice voters to support them when they know full well that their promises are exaggerated or even empty.
When leaders in all walks of life really understand that their words and actions either build or destroy trust and that every decision matters. That they, and everyone who is paid by the state, understand that they work for us, the electorate. Then, and only then, can democracy thrive.
Our democracy has been led by self-promoting, delusional, dishonest and incompetent people. We have been led down a rabbit hole of empty promises. And we are now paying both the financial and emotional prices of this self-inflicted upheaval in our precious democracy.
It is time for a culture change. We have become wet and indecisive in a world that is in disarray. It is time to take the medicine of tough love, to bring focus on what is important and shed the lamentable introspection on thin-skinned wokeness. We need to build a solid and robust society centred around our democratic values that have served us so well in the past and what is essential to our survival and in laying a foundation for future generations to thrive.
But this is more than anything about the people we select to lead us. And if our free press is so focused on individuals' foibles and minor defects that it becomes an uninviting proposition to stand for office, then we are doomed before we start. We are, after all, humans and by default, none of us are perfect. But we do have, as an electorate, every right to insist on honesty and integrity. Everyone has told lies, and some people learn from their mistakes and the clever by other people's mistakes as well. We don't want to put off all those potential MPs who do possess integrity by making the job similar to getting into a bath with a bunch of crocodiles. There has to be a line drawn in the sand that dictates the difference between salacious gossip and titillation on the one hand and the public interest on the other.
As important as feelings are, we should be focussing on measuring results, not feelings. We need more pragmatic and capable leadership that takes a leaf out of business - if it is not working - fix it - so it is working.
The brutal truth is nothing is for nothing - everything has a cost. If we are not prepared to pay the cost, then we will fail in whatever endeavour we are embarked on. This is the essence of leadership - to understand the goal, conspire to make the plan for the successful fulfilment of the mission, whatever that is - and lead, holding accountability and taking responsibility. People follow people they trust. They will fight for each other, not themselves. That is what brings success.
There is an excellent quote by General Charles de Gaul: "People want more out of life than material gain. They aspire to a higher purpose, and a leader who can summon them to something higher than themselves can touch off revolutionary change."
We certainly don't want a dictatorship, but we do require good leadership if democracy is to survive and thrive - and trust is the essential ingredient - which currently seems to be in relatively short supply.
Rikki - Suffolk - UK - 5th March - 2023