OPINION: Nobody is thinking about the six kids caught up in Hancock affair
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It would be tough to beat the Matt Hancock snog video on the cringe-o-meter.
For 24 hours, watching the man helming the nation’s battle against a pandemic peeking out of a crack in the door to check the coast was clear to snatch a school disco kiss and fumble was comedy gold.
“Have you seen it?” everyone sniggered, befuddled why a woman who appeared to have it all would ‘carry on’, as our grandmothers would say, with the man described as hopeless by his boss.
Coming up for breath after the hysterics, the outrage came at the sheer hypocrisy of the individual who had been so prescriptive against partners meeting up during lockdown, banning granny hugging and reinforced a sex ban chat with non-cohabiters in his TV chat with Kay Burley. Keeping a distance from dating partners would save lives.
Then, a national sharp intake of breath when Hancock left his wife of 15 years to set up home with their old university friend, who was photographed by the media packing her belongings, helped by her husband, into a luxury 4x4.
In interviews, politicians and commentators went to great pains to stress that they weren’t judging or criticising the extra-marital affair but were objecting to the fact that Hancock had failed to follow his own Covid rules. It was a private matter, they insisted.
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Adultery at Westminster – and everywhere – is as old as the stones it’s built with, but since when was it ok?
Why does no one say that sneaking about behind a wife and husband’s back is not the behaviour of the honourable and trustworthy? Affairs are built on lies, more lies and more lies.
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These lies must compromise the integrity of these people because they are being dishonest.
Why does no one say this anymore, but by omission, make it look like there is nothing wrong with that behaviour?
What was most upsetting though in the whole sorry saga was that six children – Hancock’s two sons and a daughter, and Gina Colangelo’s two daughters and a son – had their lives overturned overnight.
Where were the public thoughts for them? Where was consideration to what seeing and hearing about that video would do to those children? Consideration to the heartbreaking news that their parents would no longer be together and their lives would never be the same again?
Their feelings didn’t even figure across the whole media piece, only as an aside that Hancock woke up his eight-year-old son on the night before the news broke to tell him he was leaving his mother, presumably dragging him from bed because it was before his older siblings bedtime.
Six children’s lives will never be the same again, however well managed the splits might be.
That moment will live with them forever, when the family they had always known was turned on its head and they became ‘one weekend here the next weekend there’ children.
Those children had to go to school on Monday to face children whose parents would have been belly laughing at that video all weekend.
Their teachers would have had to be prepared for emotional fall-out, other children’s teasing and parents’ gossip. While their parents could hide away until the dust settled, they had to be exposed.
Whether they are victims of a parent’s mid-life crisis or fall-out from the biggest story of true love of our age, those children will be the ones to bear the life-long pain from the events of last week.
What comes next might not be what they are being told now. A secret affair with the most prominent secretary of state of our times, who can award you non-exec roles and open doors along the corridors of power, be part of G7 and be party to secrets of the nation to living with a disgraced former minister who is the butt of jokes, memes and national derision is very different.
Their path is a well-trodden one. The story began more than two decades ago, as students, Ms Colangelo as a bright young Oxford University radio news editor out of the reportedly lazy sports editor’s league.
However this affair played out, there’s been little honour displayed to the real victims of the piece, the children. As for the rest of us, do we want our navigation of the pandemic to be led by a man so distracted by when he can grab his next clinch?
The most important sadness must never be disregarded or underestimated. Those children are where everyone’s thoughts should have been last weekend, and not on where the then health secretary was putting his hands.
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