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Matt Hancock scandal

Why politicians leave their wives

Martha Hancock outside her home on Saturday. Hollie Adams/Getty Images

“Ever since those pictures of Matt Hancock snogging his aide emerged, I’ve been thinking about the nature of political marriages,” says Sarah Vine, Michael Gove’s wife, in The Mail on Sunday. I know precisely why they fail. Climbing that far up “Westminster’s greasy pole” changes a person. And when someone changes, they require something new from a partner. Hancock’s mentor, George Osborne, left his wife, Frances, for a former adviser. Coming home to doing the dishes can’t compete with the adrenaline of power. At work ministers are treated “like feudal barons”, surrounded by simpering sycophants: “No one ever says no to them.” Your poor wife is the same person you married. “But their politician men are not.”

One thing I always admired about David Cameron was his devotion to my former friend Samantha. She never failed to prick his cloud of self-importance – usually after a few glasses of wine. “The problem with the wife who has known you since way before you were king of the world is that she sees through your façade.” No wonder Osborne and Hancock left highly intelligent, attractive wives for someone “as much a courtesan as a companion”, who “understands their brilliance and, crucially, is personally invested in it”. Cameron found Samantha grounding. Sadly, most men don’t like to be reminded that they’re not “Master of the Universe”.

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