Written by Eleanor Davis
The weekly audience between the Queen and prime minister has always been a confidential affair, with only a select few hearing the discussion between sovereign and leader of the country. However, a clip between Her Majesty and Mr Johnson’s meeting was released yesterday, their first meeting since the 11th March last year.
The Queen was heard describing health secretary Matt Hancock as a “poor man”. Whether her description referred to the health secretary’s responsibility over Covid-19 or the Dominic Cummings WhatsApp saga last week, her opinion here cannot be disputed. The Queen also told Boris Johnson how the health secretary had said that “things are getting better.”
The meeting follows Dominic Cummings’ seven-thousand word essay mocking both the prime minister and the health secretary whereby he published an onslaught of texts and documents that revealed the initial handling of the pandemic. The texts revealed how Johnson had called Hancock “totally f***ing hopeless” and how he had considered swapping Hancock with Michael Gove. Cummings also released messages in which the PM called the personal protective equipment situation a “disaster”, signalling a demand for an inquiry into the pandemic being needed as soon as possible. Johnson’s former advisor also said how Hancock should have bene fired over his “criminal, disgraceful behaviour” surrounding the track and trace failings.
It is rare to hear the monarch talk to the prime minister and even rarer for her to discuss any members of government. In a documentary made in 1992, the Queen said how “they know I can be impartial and it is rather nice to feel one is a sponge”, indeed the weekly meetings between PM and the Queen are said to be one of the few times when information is guaranteed not to be leaked. The Queen seemed pleased to welcome the prime minister saying “good afternoon, it’s very nice to see you again” whilst also being surprised at the length of time since their last meeting, “fifteen months. It’s most extraordinary isn’t it?”. The Queen will likely be pleased to return to a sense of normality especially after a year filled with tragedy after the death of her husband Prince Phillip and the drama surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan that has dominated the headlines.
The meeting between PM and monarch seemed to be a moment of sympathy for the “poor man” Hancock. However when The Sun released photographs of the health secretary kissing his married aide Gina Coladangelo, public sympathy immediately turned into rage. Despite government guidelines banning social contact including hugging, Matt Hancock was seen not adhering to the two-metre rule by snogging his colleague and thus cheating on his wife of fifteen years. The health secretary has since apologised for his actions saying he is “very sorry” for “letting people down”. The story follows a hopeless week for “hopeless Hancock”, calling into question the Conservative party’s integrity and morality, yet Boris Johnson decided to accept Mr Hancock’s apology and consider the matter closed, despite Labour urging the PM to sack him. It cannot be disputed, the health secretary set the rules and then broke them, and now he must face the consequences of this.
Critics have since pointed out how disciplined Hancock was when it emerged that Professor Neil Ferguson had broken lockdown rules after his alleged lover visited at home. Hancock said he would support police action against the scientist – ironic considering his own actions. The sheer audacious hypocrisy shown by the health minister has become another blow for the Tory party; how can any member of the public respect a minister who thinks they are above the law? The only way Boris Johnson can redeem the image of his party and the authority of his position is to fire the health secretary, however after not sacking Dominic Cummings for driving 260-miles to Durham last year, it is clear that Johnson does not do ministerial resignations.