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What if Matt Hancock was gay and Phillip Schofield was straight?

Tom Winnifrith
Monday 30 August 2021

I ask this in a hypothetical sense as Hancock is clearly straight while Schofield is finally being honest about being gay. And I think I know the answer to my question but what do you think?

In the past twelve months, both men have been exposed for inappropriate workplace behaviour. In the case of Hancock, he insists he went through proper channels to get a long time pal a cushy job in his department. Some have their doubts about this. Then, when insisting that we little people social distance, he er…did not social distance from his lady friend. Both of them were married to other folks at the time.

Hancock was fired as a minister and his career is clearly going nowhere. He is finished. It was not the infidelity that did it for him as his former boss would, given his track record, be the last person on earth to be able to lecture anyone about that sort of thing. But it was the hypocrisy on social distancing and nagging questions about how his friend got the job. Hancock was exposed by a tabloid. He is toast but the one thing you can say is that his friend was independently wealthy and did not need the job so their workplace affair was not one where he had all the power. It could not be seen in any way as exploitative. There was never any question of #metoo.

Schofield was having an affair with a runner on the show he presents and where he was the highest paid member of staff. A runner is the lowest of the low in TV and so all the power in that relationship lay with Schofield. Nonetheless, on hearing that his lover had shopped him to a tabloid, Schofield reacted by coming out as gay. In an industry where the LGBTQ community is massively over quota, there is no great bravery in coming out but that is how it was painted. It was a “brave” move and his fellow celebs rallied round, making this story all about Phillips’s sexuality not about a workplace relationship where there was a massive power imbalance.

Had Schofield’s lover been a female runner, there would have been shouts everywhere of #Metoo. A powerful male boss shagging an office junior is a firing offence in most firms today and, after Harvey Weinsten, it is taboo in the media world. But, instead, 59-year-old Schofield was a hero and this week a tearful Phil accepted a special award at some LGBTQ ceremony for his bravery in coming out. His career is in the ascendant.

So my question is what would have happened if Hancock’s lover had been a man and Schofield’s lover a 17-year-old female runner? I think Hancock would still have had to stand down as a minister but in today’s Conservative party run by London liberals who obsess about climate change and diversity in the way the Tories once cared about low taxes and law and order, if he played the “my struggle in accepting I am gay” card well enough, and let it be known that anyone who criticized him was a bit of a closet gay basher, he would be back on the front bench within a year.

And Schofield… surely the screams of #MeToo would really have damaged his career big time. In a month when Bob Dylan and JFK (a man dead for 58 years) have been castigated for relationships with teenage women when they were a lot younger than Phil is today, surely he would have been in trouble. Because unlike Hancock, Schofield did hold all the power in his workplace relationship which made it unacceptable. Had Schofield been straight, he would not have been picking up any awards this week and would have been lucky to be still picking up a TV pay cheque.

It is, without doubt, a good thing that LGBTQ folk can in so many ways say they enjoy real equality. But in some respects they might, now and again, be even more equal than straight folk.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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