Whitehall is still reverberating from the Hancock affair. It was not the first, and it certainly will not be the last time that a politician gets caught out publicly. History is replete with examples of extra-marital affairs at the heart of the British political establishment, from the highest office in the land to the lowest.
To date, the media has devoted most of its coverage to the former health secretary’s “hypocrisy” and brazen disregard for the rules that he himself wrote. While some have debated the existence and propriety of having CCTV cameras in ministerial offices, others have focused exclusively on the political consequences of the affair.
Inevitably, one of the first questions that Hancock’s successor Sajid Javed was asked about is whether he had checked the office to see if the cameras were still in place. His reply was a confident no.
The Department of Health, meanwhile, has opened an urgent review of security in the building. A central part of the investigation will be to ascertain who gave the CCTV footage to The Sun newspaper. Speculation is rife in this regard. Whitehall insiders have described the matter as a “massive breach of security.”
Still focusing on this aspect, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Angela Raynor, has called for a “full-scale investigation” and warned of grave security risks if ministers are using their personal accounts to discuss sensitive information. This has been alleged in the Hancock case.
OPINION: Unpacking the appointment of an ‘unapologetic’ Israel supporter as Britain’s Health Secretary
What if hostile states, Russia or China got hold of classified information by hacking into the personal emails of ministers? It’s a valid and important question.
In amongst all of this, though, there has been scant recognition of the true victims of this tragedy, notably the children of the now broken families and the spouses left to pick up the pieces.
The media coverage contrasts markedly with the frequent self-righteous concern for the rights of Muslim women in Britain, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf, for example. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s portrayal of Muslim women as being the hapless victims of oppressive men is well documented. Muslims are often pilloried for adopting a zero-tolerance approach to adultery, but the opinions of the victims of adulterous affairs are never sought.
Shouldn’t the political class and media now spare a thought for the impact of the Hancock affair on the families whose humanity and dignity have been ruthlessly disregarded and, as a result, degraded? It is surely a sad indictment of the modern society that the political impact of the Hancock affair takes priority over the adulterous fallout on the families concerned, to the extent that the latter are invisible.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.