‘It’s easy to lambast Matt Hancock without diving into his relationships’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

Health Secretary Matt Hancock
Ian Vogler/WPA Pool/Getty Images
(Image credit: Ian Vogler/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

1. So Matt Hancock has a messy personal life – who doesn’t?

Victoria Richards in The Independent

on Westminster scandal

“Have you ever cheated on a partner? Has anyone ever cheated on you? Do you know anyone who’s cheated on their significant other?”, asks Victoria Richards in The Independent. “Chances are, everyone reading this will be able to answer ‘yes’ to at least one of these questions.” Turning to reports that Matt Hancock has cheated on his wife, Richards wonders whether these allegations really matter, concluding: “Not so much.” After a year of criticism, “there’s enough to lambast the health secretary about without diving into the gritty details of his relationships: his poor performance during the pandemic, his failure to boost Covid testing and ventilator capacity, the lack of procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS and care staff”. However, when it comes to the details of Hancock’s personal life, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

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2. Why are we letting a largely defeated virus change the nature of our society?

Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph

on pandemic milestones

“Test and Trace data for ‘amber’ countries shows that 99.6% of those returning test negative”, writes Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph. “So where, then, is the threat?” When the virus first arrived in the UK, “there was a clear justification for lockdown: without it, the NHS would be overrun, hospitals would reject patients, and this would threaten wider societal collapse”. But analysing hospital admission data, he says that “the vaccines work”, adding: “This could be quite a milestone: we might have just defeated Covid.” So “if Chris Whitty and Matt Hancock can no longer claim that the NHS is in operational danger, how can they justify keeping their draconian powers?”. “Should we now let a largely defeated virus change who we are as a people?”

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3. Britain and EU are learning a wary waltz

James Forsyth in The Times

on a new alliance

Boris Johnson once described Brexit as “the greatest apple of discord thrown into British public life”, writes James Forsyth in The Times. And five years after the EU referendum, “one thing that is not settled is what relationship the UK and the European Union will have in the years to come”. With signs of a “truce” in the trade dispute over Northern Ireland, an “optimist” might conclude the two sides “look as if they are learning how to waltz with each other”. He argues that both teams have learned that breakthroughs are more likely if they do not “escalate things”, adding that “Brexiteers” point to the fact that the EU has even fallen out with Switzerland, while “Eurocrats” highlight the “prickliness of Brexit Britain”. Five years after the life-changing vote, he adds, “there’s still time to make Brexit the beginning of a new alliance and not, just, the end of an old one”.

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4. No one should be penalised if they want to carry on working from home

Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian

on a gender divide

The dating app Bumble has given its entire workforce a week off, writes Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian, and if those workers have emerged from a “mentally and physically draining year of holding things together in a pandemic feeling frankly knackered, then they’re certainly not alone”. This opens the question, she says, of what happens next for workforces. The home worker’s “perennial fear of being excluded from some loop that they didn’t know existed is seeping anxiously back” and “may only increase when the ‘work from home’ rule is finally abandoned”. She identifies that those companies that are offering staff the freedom to choose whether they return to the office post-pandemic or carry on working mostly from home “risk inadvertently deepening the gender divide if it’s predominantly women with caring responsibilities who end up taking the home option”. Instead, companies and the government must “monitor very carefully the gendered take-up of home working and its impact on pay or prospects”.

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5. The secret of George Osborne’s success

Sam Leith on Unherd

on a busy CV

“Good God, I thought as the news broke yesterday morning, is there nothing the man can’t do?”, writes Sam Leith on Unherd following George Osborne’s appointment as chair of the British Museum. The former chancellor has managed such a portfolio of jobs because he is “the Right Sort Of Chap”, he adds, explaining that in Osborne’s world, you reach “a level of seniority by sucking up to the right people and getting in the right gang – and once you’ve made it, you’ve made it”. The “right sort of chap” is “part of the nepotistic, private-school-dominated establishment, in which your path is eased by knowing the right people and projecting the right front”. But this leads to a dangerous assumption, he warns, that “the Right Sort of Chap is the right person for the job, even if they’ve proved otherwise, time and again”.

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