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  • Alastair Cavendish

Hancock's Half-Witted

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoombe has suggested the imposition of a 6:00pm curfew for men, as a novel solution to the problem of violence against women. Before wasting too much good, hot anger, which might be deployed against any number of targets in these infuriating times, it is worth noting that even Lady Jones herself appears to regard this proposal as some sort of perverse joke. She later said that the suggestion was not entirely serious, though she added, rather perplexingly, that this was because she did not have the power to impose such a curfew, an obvious non sequitur. Possibly, like her namesake in the Edward Lear poem, Lady Jones has spent too much time talking to chickens.

Both witless proposal and half-hearted disclaimer are symptoms of a serious and widespread malady. The current government has done everything it can to damage the rule of law, flagrantly breaking the law itself, at the same time as it purports to pass a mass of new legislation that no one respects, follows, or even understands. It is far from clear whether the government has the legal authority to make these laws, something which it seems to acknowledge itself when it continually refers to “the rules”.

The Secretary of State for Health is a particularly extreme offender in this regard. As a rule, I try to avoid ad hominem attacks, but to call the Health Secretary a man seems unnecessarily complimentary. Baroness Jones would undoubtedly let him roam the streets after 6:00pm without a second thought. I am quite confident that I could carve a better man than Matt Hancock out of a banana. With a blunt knife. It wouldn’t take very long either.

Having broken the law himself, misrepresented the nature of the breach, and told the public that they ought to be thanking him for his delinquency, the Health Secretary proceeded to announce that those who wrote the name of the wrong country on a form after returning from overseas might be punished by ten years in prison. This is a longer sentence than the maximum allowed for burglary with intent to commit rape, and many sex offences involving minors. As soon as this manifest absurdity was announced, various lawyers and judges gave their opinion that this ten-year sentence would never be imposed. Like the gargantuan fines which no court will uphold, it was simply a scare tactic, by a government which, modelling itself on the Fat Boy in The Pickwick Papers, is continually trying “to make your flesh creep.”

This is a dangerously frivolous use of the law. If ministers of the crown do not trouble to take the law seriously, why should anyone else? The Health Secretary may, for all I know, already have planned his escape to Argentina in order to avoid being prosecuted for crimes against humanity, though if his planning resembles the way he runs his department, he will be apprehended somewhere between Wimbledon and Hounslow. If he has not worked out such an exit strategy, however, he will have to live in the country he has done so much to destroy, in which, without the rule of law, the steady stream of hot air emanating from the House of Lords with be the least of our worries.

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