Where do you even begin with this latest chapter in the never-ending soap opera starring the chancers and charlatans laughably described as our “government” in recent years? Perhaps “absolute bunch of arses” is a good place to start.

In my assessment of the situation, the arses are not the teaching unions, as so described in a particularly juvenile exchange between then Health Secretary Matt Hancock and then Education Secretary Gavin Williamson when they were arguing about whether schools should be closed during the Covid-19 pandemic; no, they are the arses, they and their colleagues in government and their friends in the incestuous media ecosystem with which said government co-exists.

The leaking to The Telegraph of hapless Hancock’s Covid WhatsApp messages is understandably being presented by the paper as an earth-shattering development of enormous political consequence self-evidently in the public interest, given it sheds considerable light on decisions being made in government at such an important time for the country.

But truth be told, though there is plenty of new detail and colour on which to gorge, what we have seen so far strongly confirms so much that we already knew about the absolute bunch of arses who have, alas, been “running” the country in recent years.

Breaking news – Boris Johnson was never on top of detail, seems broadly innumerate, needed Dominic Cummings to explain anything beyond the rudimentary in words of one syllable, and even in WhatsApp messages sought to trivialise, show off and make people laugh at a time there was not much to laugh about. (“Five marks: show workings.”) Twattery confirmed.

Blimey! – Turns out they were saying one thing in private and another in public, and Hancock’s public claim to have thrown a protective ring around care homes was matched in private by his rejection of the expert advice that all residents going into care homes should be tested. Hancock claims he was initially supportive of this advice, before being told it was not workable. Nevertheless hypocrisy confirmed.

Massive new revelation – Hancock, the man who thought the way to rebuild his reputation was to leave parliament for the I’m A Celebrity jungle, and who was convinced the country was desperate to share his joy in an adulterous, marriage-wrecking affair, has very poor judgement! Though yes, it was genuinely shocking to discover that his judgement was so poor as to trust someone as untrustworthy as Isabel Oakeshott with his phone and all the messages from ministers, advisers and civil servants that were on it. Appalling judgement confirmed.

Who would have thought it? That Oakeshott, whose source-revealing leaked emails led to the jailing of former Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce, might decide that a big story with her at the centre of it, and which fitted her personal political agenda, was more important than sticking to the terms of a non-disclosure agreement? She argues she was acting in the public interest. My view is different. Media as amoral cesspit confirmed.

And wow! Do newspapers really have their own agenda on major issues of policy, and slant their news coverage towards it? Who knew? Fusion of news and comment confirmed.

Honestly, what a ghastly bunch, the lot of them. Made for each other.

To think there was a time when millions of us tuned in, day after day, to hear what Johnson, Hancock and co had to say about what we could and couldn’t do with our lives. Given they were the Government, whatever our political views or personal assessments of them as individuals, we at least assumed they were reaching the decisions they announced in a professional, systematic, grown-up way. Think again on that one.

So now, as The Telegraph release their stash drip-drip, as they did with MPs’ expenses claims, we have to hear ministers endlessly telling us to “wait for the official inquiry,” where once they told us to “wait for Sue Gray”.

More from Opinion

Just as we didn’t actually need to wait for Sue Gray to know Johnson had broken lockdown rules and lied about it, so we don’t really need the full inquiry to tell us that the Government could have done a lot better in its handling of Covid. At the moment, we are getting a partial horror story. I suspect the inquiry will give us the full horror story.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak decides that right now the best use of his time and his party’s money – it had better not be government money – is to take busloads of Tory MPs to an expensive Windsor hotel to play games, plot election strategies and generally bond. Apparently there is to be a pub quiz too. How lovely.

Windsor was chosen in part because it was the scene of what Sunak and his supporters see as his greatest triumph, the new post-Brexit trading deal for Northern Ireland he agreed with the EU. This never-ending lap of honour brings to mind kids who have trashed the home of their parents who went away for the weekend, and then want lots of credit for clearing up the vomit in the bathroom. He fixed a part of the mess left to him by Johnson. The bigger picture remains grisly.

That Sunak is less dishonest than Johnson and less utterly useless than Liz Truss is undoubtedly true. The bar for leadership could hardly have been set lower. But he has been part of, and now presides over, a governing party that simply is not up to the task of leading this country in the right direction.

We didn’t need Hancock’s messages to be aware of that. But they have certainly helped to crystallise the country’s thinking.

Alastair Campbell is a writer and broadcaster

By admin