Something I realised when compiling our 60th birthday issue last year is that every health secretary has at some point been called the worst ever, and Matt Hancock is no exception. Whether he is or not is a moot point (and there have been some bad ones, including his immediate predecessor, who has undergone a bizarre redemption).
Hancock might have hoped his legacy would be based on his digital revolution in the NHS. In reality, his short and medium-term legacy is likely to be on those pictures of his kissing an aide he appointed, while breaking his own social distancing rules.
But in the long-term, history will look back at Hancock’s time through the prism of being the health secretary through Covid. There were huge mistakes: sending Covid-positive patients back into care homes; the lack of PPE for health and care staff towards the start of the pandemic; the ridiculous test and trace system; the failure to make the case for earlier lockdowns while his boss was telling people to get back to work; and the mixed messaging after the original plea to ‘stay at home’.
However, the upshot is that, even if the mistakes had not occurred, he will always be judged on the 130,000 people who have died with Covid. This might be unfair. We don’t know how many would have died with someone different in place. The reporting seems to suggest he was pushing for the more cautious approach to lockdown. And it would be churlish not to appreciate the near-faultless vaccination programme.
But he was the health secretary and he must be judged on the outcomes. And the truth is, the death toll is far worse than anyone predicted in March 2020, and compares very badly to any comparable nation.
That is what Hancock will be remembered for, whether he deserved it or not.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at email@example.com.