Health Secretary Matt Hancock has apologised and admitted breaking social distancing rules after pictures were published of him kissing an aide.
The Sun alleged on Friday morning that Mr Hancock, who has been married for 15 years, had been having a secret affair with Gina Coladangelo – an adviser he hired last year. Images of Mr Hancock appearing to kiss Coladangelo were published by the newspaper on Friday.
The images were reported to be taken on 6 May 2021 in Mr Hancock’s Whitehall Office, at a time when the Government’s own lockdown rules were still banning people from hugging anyone except those in their household or support bubble.
Responding to the reports on Friday, Mr Hancock said he had “let people down”, that he was “very sorry”, but that he would remain “focused” on working to get the country out of the pandemic
The Labour Party has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to sack Hancock over the revelations. Commenting, Anneliese Dodds, Labour Party chair said;
“If Matt Hancock has been secretly having a relationship with an adviser in his office – who he personally appointed to a taxpayer-funded role – it is a blatant abuse of power and a clear conflict of interest.
“The charge sheet against Matt Hancock includes wasting taxpayers’ money, leaving care homes exposed and now being accused of breaking his own Covid rules.
“His position is hopelessly untenable. Boris Johnson should sack him.”
Many others have also called for Mr Hancock to be sacked, with Liberal Democrats Ed Davey saying he had “utterly failed” in his role. Davey said;
“The reason Matt Hancock should resign is that he is a terrible Health Secretary, not because of his private life. From the PPE scandal, the crisis in our care service and the unbelievably poor test and trace system, he has utterly failed.”
Away from the fresh revelations, Hancock has received considerable criticism in recent times. Last month, Mr Hancock was found to have committed a “minor breach” of the ministerial code, though an official report stated this was “in no way deliberate”. The Health Secretary had failed to declare that a firm run by a family member, which he also had a 20% stake in, had won an NHS contract.
Mr Hancock’s handling of the pandemic has also been heavily criticised, including by the Prime Minister’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings. Speaking to a parliamentary committee session, Mr Cummings said Hancock “should have been fired for at least 15 to 20 things” – though claims made by Cummings were denied by Hancock.
Hancock, who has now confirmed that he broke the government’s own lockdown rules on social distancing, has had an important role in managing the health response to the pandemic over the last year. Some have sympathised with the argument that the revelations concern Mr Hancock’s private not public life – though others have raised concerns around potential conflicts of interest and coronavirus-related rule-breaking.
A number of politicians and scientists resigned last year after breaking coronavirus regulations, including Scotland’s then-Chief Medical officer Catherine Calderwood.
Downing Street has said that Boris Johnson has accepted Matt Hancock’s apology and “considers the matter closed”.