Sleazy does it: a gruesome history of Westminster scandal

Matt Hancock's reign or error is over, snafu'd by a sixth-form snog with a friendly aide. But he's by no means alone in the sleaze stakes...

They say Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, but it would do ugly people a real disservice to say this also applies to Westminster. What makes British political sleaze seem so grim, so slimy? The answer lies in that footage of Matt Hancock snogging his aide Gina Coladangelo, a Department of Health colleague, revealed last week by The Sun. It’s the way he furtively pokes his balding head out the door to check the coast is clear. It’s how he awkwardly shuffles over to her, as if to say ‘Right, my Google Calendar tells me it’s our 15-minute adultery meeting’. It’s how he immediately grabs her ass like a teenager who wholeheartedly believes that there is no punani without Armani.

The late writer AA Gill once teased political anoraks for having certain characteristics — like speedy typing — that indicated an adolescence “bereft of one-to-one nudity”. It must be the desire to make up for all those mornings leafleting in the rain and evenings sitting in empty, echoey town halls for speeches on Friedmanite theory that drives politicians like Hancock to shag their colleagues. As is unfortunately the case, his antics have recalled past political scandals that weren’t quite Jeremy Thorpe or Profumo-grade, but were still pretty grotty in their own way. Here’s your run down of the best Hancock-tier fiascos – your A-to-Sleaze guide (sorry).

Baron Sewel: "I just want to be led astray..."

John Sewel

Baron Sewel deserves a prominent mention as Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords who cavorted with two hookers and a lot of cocaine. Exposed in 2015 for behaving like a graduate accountant suddenly bestowed with the feudal privilege known as droit du seigneur, he was caught on a hidden camera chugging champagne, vodka, and wine before snorting a line of gear off a call girl’s breasts. Sewel, who helped to write a code of conduct for peers that asked them to act with “selflessness, integrity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership”. He was filmed telling the prostitutes “I just want to be led astray”, which, when you think about it, is at least open and honest.

Anthony Lambton

Lord Lambton was the Conservative MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed for twenty years before he detonated his career by getting caught visiting prostitutes. He was snapped smoking weed with two call girls in the 1970s. There was a stink at the time over whether Lambton, an air force minister, had spoken about secret government business during his trysts. “I have certainly never mentioned the subject or discussed defence with a girl,” he said. “I think they would be slightly bored if you did.” 

To unlock this article, please subscribe. Benefits include:

  • Offers, benefits and access to exclusive clubs, restaurants, bars, gyms, hotels and handpicked brands
  • 2 Bookazines delivered to your door each year
  • 15% off selected brands online with the Gentleman's Journal Shop
  • Events — invitations to member-only events each year
  • Paywalled content — access to member-only password-protected online features
  • Your own Clubhouse membership card to redeem all the perks
Clubhouse Membership

Clubhouse Membership

Buy Now

Further Reading