Boris Johnson's government is rotten to the core as scandalous actions by Matt Hancock, Michael Gove and others show – Angus Robertson MSP

If a reminder was needed: Boris Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister and neither are many of his ministers.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 4:55 am
Matt Hancock, who has resigned as Health Secretary, looks towards Boris Johnson during a Cabinet meeting last July (Picture: Simon Dawson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

While the country has reacted in revulsion at the hypocrisy of Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the PM said he considered the matter closed.

However, even before Hancock was exposed for breaking the pandemic rules he lectured others about, the Prime Minister thought he was a liability.

Leaked WhatsApp messages show BoJo describing Hancock as being “totally f***ing hopeless”. That Johnson was prepared to see him soldier on regardless speaks volumes.

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He preferred to see his compromised and hopeless Health Secretary carry on in office dealing badly with the biggest health crisis in a century rather than get to grips with his personnel problem.

Boris Johnson is incapable of dealing with the failings of his ministers and advisers, including his Barnard-Castle-bestie-turned-nemesis Dominic Cummings. Home Secretary Priti Patel has been investigated, found to have bullied others at work and broken the ministerial code. BoJo’s reaction: she has his full confidence.

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This month Michael Gove was found to have acted unlawfully by the English High Court when awarding a lucrative £560,000 research contract to his former special adviser, author of the 2019 Conservative election manifesto.

This is the same Covid contract which spent taxpayer money researching Scottish attitudes towards the UK Union. The consequences for Michael Gove from the Prime Minister: absolutely none.

Gove, who is on a flying visit to Scotland, is now facing tough questions from Westminster SNP leader Ian Blackford.

These include: Did the Prime Minister approve the decision to use a £560,000 emergency Covid contract to conduct constitutional campaigning on the Union? Who were the polling results shared with? Will the results be published in full? Were the devolved governments informed of the decision to conduct polling into attitudes towards the Union with emergency Covid contracts? Was the Secretary of State for Scotland aware an emergency Covid contract was being used for polling on attitudes towards the Union? What additional taxpayer funds have been used for political research during the pandemic?

The difficult questions for Michael Gove continue. Was his “urgent” order in July 2020 to extend the emergency Covid contract to carry out polling on the Union a reaction to the Sunday Times report that support for both the SNP and Scottish independence had jumped to the highest level recorded by a Panelbase poll? Following the humiliation of the High Court case, will he now commit to a full public inquiry on this gross misuse of public money? I doubt it.

It is now clear that Michael Gove has acted completely inappropriately and unlawfully. Like Mathew Hancock, he has also been a big fan of the Conservative chumocracy.

That greasy arrangement has seen Tory ministers reward their friends and political allies with cushy jobs and contracts.

While much of it is brazenly in plain sight, other things have been kept strictly off the official books. By using a private email system to get round strict government accountability in office, Matt Hancock clearly hoped to avoid scrutiny.

The Johnson administration is thoroughly rotten. Its ministers have broken the ministerial code, acted unlawfully and been profoundly unethical. Scotland and the UK deserves much better.

Angus Robertson is SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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