The elephant family in the room

Hypocrisy wasn't Matt Hancock's worst offence

Following Matt Hancock’s resignation as Britain’s Health Secretary this week, attention has turned to the mystery of why his ministerial office CCTV camera was turned away from pointing at the insecure balcony and turned instead towards the office door, in front of which he was caught kissing and fondling his aide, Gina Coladangelo.

My dears, the excitement over the Case of the Creeping Camera!

This followed days of outrage about Hancock’s behaviour from MPs and media commentators.

Were they outraged that he had betrayed his wife, who knew nothing about his affair with Coladangelo until he told her as soon as he discovered that the Sun had got hold of the CCTV footage and was about to run a story about it? Were they outraged that both he and Coladangelo, who have now left their respective spouses to move in with each other, have accordingly shattered two families and destroyed the lives of their six children? Were they outraged that Hancock reportedly woke up his eight year-old daughter to tell her he was leaving home?

Nope, none of that. What outraged most of them instead was Hancock’s hypocrisy; as the minister heading the struggle against Covid-19, who had repeatedly insisted that people must observe social distancing, he had now broken his own rule in the clinch with his lover.

Really? This was really the most important and outrageous aspect of what he had done? 

On Unherd, Giles Fraser made an excellent point. Although hypocrisy was bad, it was better to have high moral standards that one failed to meet than having low standards that one could therefore easily meet, or having no standards at all. He wrote:

Yet hypocrisy is often thought of as the worst kind of failure going. And I suspect the reason for this is our thoroughgoing subjectivity about morality. In an age where we cannot agree on right and wrong, where we all have our own moral truth, not being true to what you say is the only kind of failure going. When morality becomes so subjective, hypocrisy is the only accusation left.

Exactly. Hypocrisy wasn’t the worst aspect of Hancock’s behaviour; that was betraying his family, which applied to Coladangelo too. 

Invited onto BBC Radio’s Today programme to discuss his point, Giles however found himself up against a brick wall of incomprehension. 

The presenter seemed unable to grasp that that Giles was not exculpating Hancock of saying one thing and doing another. Giles agreed that was intolerable. He was, however, making a different point: that there was worse behaviour than hypocrisy, but that in an age which had abolished moral absolutes, the gap between saying one thing and doing another was the only thing now deemed suitable for condemnation because few now acknowledged that bad behaviour was indeed bad. A fact which the apparently baffled presenter proceeded to confirm. 

Indeed, abandoning spouses and children has now been all but airbrushed out of the moral picture. In our so-called “non-judgmental” age (which is actually oppressively judgmental about attitudes which dissent from subjective and relativist orthodoxies) the only judgment permitted about people who shatter their families is that judging them is bad.

Hancock’s friends indulgently explained his and Coladangelo’s behaviour as a “love match”. Thus non-judgmentalism actually valorises behaviour that creates victims.

When Tony Blair first became Britain’s prime minister in 1997, he understood that the disintegration of the normative, traditional married family posed a terrible threat to the well-being of both individuals and society. He was virtually alone in his government in thinking that; his attempts to formulate family policy that prioritised and incentivised the traditional married family were received with outrage by feminists and defeated.

From that point onwards, the “lifestyle choice” orthodoxy took over, ordaining that broken families were of equal value to intact ones and that everyone had a right to choose their own family structure. Evidence that children were overwhelmingly better off in every  area of life if brought up by their married parents was opposed, denied and then dumped, with social science researchers of integrity denied the grant funding to enable them to continue to produce that evidence. Statistics showing that women and children in broken homes were vastly more at risk of physical or sexual abuse than those in intact families simply disappeared from the databases of government departments.

Divorce stopped being a tragedy and became a human right. Elective single parenthood became an entitlement. Illegitimacy was stamped out for babies; births out of wedlock were deemed to be absolutely fine, and it was only the stigma attached to them which was reprehensible. As cohabitation rose and rose, so did mass fatherlessness — and as that soared to epidemic proportions, so did the misery, under-achievement and antisocial behaviour of fatherless boys (fatherless girls typically fell into depression, premature sexualisation and physical risk).

Now parts of Britain, particularly in London, are experiencing horrific rates of knife crime in which boys who are largely black are being murdered by other boys who are largely black.  Some black community leaders have understood that, while a number of factors are involved in this awful phenomenon, the most constant is the absence of fathers from these boys’ lives. Yet these community leaders are ignored, principally because acknowledging the baleful effect of family fragmentation in the lives of these black boys would also call into question the baleful effects of family fragmentation in other lives too. 

So from Matt Hancock to murdered black boys in London, the politically willed atomisation of family life, which is bringing damage, danger and havoc to both individuals and society, has become the lethal elephant in the room. 

Recent posts

Premium subscribers can read my most recent exclusive post, on how the Palestinians’ incipient police state doesn’t fit the western narrative, if you click here.

And you can read my most recent post that’s available to everyone, on the delusional faith in reason of the liberal intellectual, by clicking here.

One more thing…

This is how my website works.

It has two subscription levels: my free service and the premium service.

Anyone can sign up to the free service on this website. You can of course unsubscribe at any time by clicking “unsubscribe” at the foot of each email.

Everyone on the free list will receive the full text of pieces I write for outlets such as the Jewish News Syndicate and the Jewish Chronicle, as well as other posts and links to my broadcasting work.

But why not subscribe to my premium service? For that you’ll also receive pieces that I write specially for my premium subscribers. Those articles will not be published elsewhere. They’ll arrive in your inbox as soon as I have written them.

There is a monthly fee of $6.99 for the premium service, or $70 for an annual subscription. Although the fee is charged in US dollars, you can sign up with any credit card. Just click on the “subscribe now” button below to see the available options for subscribing either to the premium or the free service.

A note on subscriptions

If you purchase a subscription to my site, you will be authorising a payment to my company Dirah Associates. In the past, that is the name that may have appeared on your credit card statement. In future, though, the charge should appear instead as Melanie Phillips.

And thank you for following my work.