The health secretary Matt Hancock has been accused of having an affair with his personal aide Gina Coladangelo.
In a story broken byThe Sun newspaper, Hancock is apparently pictured on CCTV kissing 43-year-old Coladangelo, who was hired last year, in the department of health’s Whitehall office.
The kiss apparently took place last month on 6th May, when Covid-19 restrictions were still in place. The tabloid claims that Hancock was seen checking that the corridor was clear before closing the door behind him, before the embrace began.
A whistleblower claimed that Hancock had tried to keep the affair secret but “everyone knows what goes on inside a building like that”. They added: “I’m just amazed he was so brazen about it as he was the Secretary of State.”
A friend of Hancock’s said on Thursday: “He has no comment on personal matters. No rules have been broken.” However, in a statement released later, Hancock said he was “very sorry” for breaching social distancing guidance and said he had “let people down”.
When the kiss reportedly took place, Covid restrictions, including social distancing, were still firmly in place, with restaurants and pubs only allowing for people to sit at a table outside. The road map said people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble.
These restrictions were only eased on 17th May, more than a week after Hancock’s incident, as people were allowed to gather outdoors again, with cinemas and hotels reopening, as well as restaurants and pubs returning to indoor dining and drinking.
Reaction to the story from members of the media has questioned Hancock’s decision making at the time and speculated about whether he had broken Covid rules – as well as the ethics of hiring Coladangelo in the first place.
Matt Hancock will argue his affair is private, but it took place at his work, during the biggest crisis in decades,… https://t.co/2DLGOcTK4o
The transport secretary Grant Shapps was questioned on this matter during an appearance on Sky News on Friday morning.
Shapps called it an “entirely personal” issue for Hancock to deal with after he was questioned about Coladangelo’s hiring. He said: “In terms of rules, anyone who has been appointed has to go through an incredibly rigorous process in Government, so whatever the rules are, the rules will have to be followed.
“There are no shortcuts to that, as anyone who has had anything to do with the appointments system in the Civil Service knows. There are very strict rules in place.”
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Footage has also resurfaced of Hancock calling for Professor Neil Ferguson to be prosecuted in May last year after Ferguson was caught breaking social distancing guidelines when visiting his lover during the first lockdown.
Matt Hancock suggested that Neil Ferguson should be prosecuted for breaking the rules when he meet his lover.
After Ferguson resigned from his position, Hancock told Sky News: “They will take their decisions independently from ministers, that’s quite right, it’s always been like that. Even though I have got a clear answer to what I think, as a minister the way we run the police is that they make decisions like this. So I give them their space to make that decision, but I think he took the right decision to resign.”
But Hancock’s latest statement appears to indicate that he has no intention of resigning. He said: “I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter.”
Earlier this month, Boris Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings leaked WhatsApp messages that he had apparently received from the prime minister, where he called Hancock “hopeless.” During his testimony to the select committee, Cummings repeatedly suggested that he had told Johnson to “sack” Hancock.
The Labour party has already demanded an inquiry into whether Hancock broke Covid rules or not with the kiss. A spokesperson for the opposition is quoted as saying: “Ministers, like everyone, are entitled to a private life.
“However, when taxpayers’ money is involved or jobs are being offered to close friends who are in a personal relationship with a minister, then that needs to be looked into.
“The government needs to be open and transparent about whether there are any conflicts of interests or rules that have been broken.”
Labour has also called for Hancock to be sacked. The party’s chair Anneliese Dodds is quoted as saying that Hancock’s relationship with Coladangelo was “a blatant abuse of power and a clear conflict of interest.” The Lib Dems echoed this by saying: “Hypocrite Hancock must go.”
But Downing Street said the Prime Minister had accepted Hancock’s apology for breaching social distancing guidelines and “considers the matter closed”.