And in true Hollywood style, just when the Liberal Democrats were banging on again with fake bravado about Hancock being 'old news', his past as a Lib Dem MP rose up off the ground and threw itself back into the fray.
Reported first in The Guardian and then in the Portsmouth News, just a few days ago, his previously well-publicised activities in Azerbaijan have finally come under scrutiny by the Council of Europe itself. And this one isn't going to fade away quietly - the Council Of Europe's assembly known as 'PACE' and the Speaker of the House of Commons are going to need to decide what to do with him. As with the Pascoe investigation into his activities in Portsmouth, Hancock refused to co-operate, saying he's not feeling well.
Yet in familiar style, he's not been too unwell to speak to a journalist from the Portsmouth News about all sorts of things, including once-again-Council-Leader GVJ and Labour. (More of which in a future piece.) Is this really satisfactory from a man who still draws a substantial parliamentary pension?
The Azerbaijan stuff wasn't a surprise to me at all, and I've written as recently as March about it, including his Armenian genocide denial, his at-the-time growing affection for Russia, his supposed affection for a particular young Russian woman and their connection with Azerbaijan - and the Lib Dem Party's tolerance of all these things.
That previous piece of mine is something of a 'long read', couched very much in a detailed historical framework (for those who like their political history). I'll summarise the salient points here, in this 'short read'. Basically, at around the same time Hancock met and supposedly lived in a 'genuine and enduring' relationship with 'the girl from the Caucasus', Katia Zatuliveter, he appears to have changed the way he signed up for Early Day Motions on the existence of the Armenian genocide put before the House of Commons by fellow MPs. It was as though meeting Katia, a young Russian woman he knew was involved with Azerbaijan - a country that chooses not to recognise the Armenian genocide - and living with her for up to four years in London (according to her own evidence to a special immigration tribunal) somehow influenced his views. Who'd have thought it?
The Guardian newspaper article of 16th May 2018 refers directly to 'a probe into vote rigging', and says that:
The former MP Mike Hancock, who was expelled from the Liberal Democrats [Guardian's own link] was censured for failing to give evidence. During his time at Pace, Hancock was a frequent guest in Baku and once praised its electoral process. He declined to attend the inquiry, citing his health and the fact he was no longer an MP. Both men face being stripped of the prestige title “honorary associate” of the assembly, as well as use of the buildings.
The report has been sent to the speakers of all 47 parliaments that send MPs to the Strasbourg assembly. Pieter Omtzigt, a Dutch MP, who led calls to launch the inquiry, said: “I am very interested to see what the House of Commons will decide to do.” A spokesperson for the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, declined to comment. The parliamentary commissioner for standards has the power to investigate ex-MPs, an exceptional measure that takes place only following consultations with the Commons committee on standards.
Ben Fishwick's Portsmouth News article of 18th May 2018 is equally bold in its description of what exactly has been investigated by the Council of Europe, namely a 'vote rigging corruption enquiry' and 'allegations of a cash-for-votes scandal'. The article says that the report 'found Mr Hancock was among the most ‘prominent apologists for Azerbaijan.’
And so ... is Hancock really 'old news'? I doubt that very much.
Azerbaijan, its politics, its money, its connections to Russia - it's too much of a huge story. And it's a story that's all just a little bit Hollywood - but then aren't some of the most bizarre?
Action to Take: In the meantime, if you find you wish to write to any of the people potentially involved in determining the outcome of this episode, and ask them to fully investigate these matters, here are some useful email addresses.
Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP: email@example.com
Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone OBE: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chair of Commons Committee on Standards, Rt Hon Sir Kevin Barron MP: email@example.com
Acknowledgements: European Stability Initiative 2013 'Azerbaijan Debacle' (Berlin); Jennifer Rankin and Sam Jones for The Guardian, 16 May 2018, 'Council of Europe bans ex-president from top posts over vote rigging'; Ben Fishwick for the Portsmouth News, 18th May 2018, 'Former Portsmouth MP faces censure for not taking part in vote-rigging inquiry'; image of Halloween (dir: John Carpenter) character - WikiMedia Commons.
Edits: minor typo corrections, 23rd May 2018