IT is difficult to know what is the greater scandal– the pitiful plight of four-year-old Jack Williment, sleeping on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary with suspected pneumonia due to a shortage of beds, or the arrogance of Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock.
First published in the Yorkshire Evening Post, the haunting photo of little Jack, wrapped in coats to keep warm and attached to an oxygen mask to assist his breathing, was always going to be politically embarrassing on the eve of the general election.
Distressing for the youngster’s family, it is equally perturbing that this was the best makeshift bed on offer at the hospital – a location for one of the 40 ‘new’ hospitals promised by the PM before this figure was scaled back to six.
Yet, rather than showing some compassion, the Prime Minister took a reporter’s phone and put it in his pocket after initially refusing to look at a photo of Jack. He later tried to play down his actions, and trot out his party’s standard soundbites, as the scandal followed him across the North.
And then there was the cavalier response of Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Secretary, who made an unscheduled visit to Leeds. This had all the hallmarks of a self-ingratiating politician putting his party’s best interests – namely closing down this scandal – before those of patients having to wait in corridors for beds.
For, while Jack’s family say they are eternally grateful to hospital staff who later gave the youngster the all clear, Mr Hancock – Health Secretary since July last year – has presided over record waiting times on his watch. He’s also failed to honour countless promises to reform social care.
At the end of an election that began with Mr Johnson misjudging his response to the South Yorkshire floods, it is little reason that so many people are unsettled by the conduct of the PM and now his apology of a Health Secretary.