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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— Stig Abell (@Stig Abell) 1624601912
At the time he was ordering the British people not to hug anyone from other households… 👇 https://t.co/DBM6qmZCsB— Piers Morgan (@Piers Morgan) 1624604307
Matt Hancock’s private life is his business. But when he spends taxpayer cash on hiring an old pal who he then h… https://t.co/WlHSvR8cSu— Pippa Crerar (@Pippa Crerar) 1624602719
Look I'm the very last person on Earth to defend Matt Hancock... but where is The Sun's front page from when Boris… https://t.co/gAdwglJYu9— Otto English (@Otto English) 1624602649
Government guidance advising against close physical contact with people not in your household was not lifted until… https://t.co/XdyhJIe8uD— Lewis Goodall (@Lewis Goodall) 1624615557
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.”
"What is the procedure for hiring personal acquaintances?" We asked the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps about a s… https://t.co/jhkZBeEKM1— Kay Burley (@Kay Burley) 1624604589
Hancock and Coladangelo reportedly met when they were both at Oxford University in the early 2000s. Hancock married his wife Martha Hoyer Millar in 2006. The couple have three children.
Another element of the story that has come under scrutiny is how the CCTV images were leaked to the press in the first place and the implications that it is likely to have on Hancock’s family.
I guess this is the day when those who despise Matt Hancock get to put the boot in. 1. Two families are involved h… https://t.co/FpZ27DS39c— Adrian Hilton (@Adrian Hilton) 1624599732
The next story to emerge from this Hancock scoop is surely how CCTV images from inside a minister's office were lea… https://t.co/CAjWs9Fpie— Kirsty Strickland (@Kirsty Strickland) 1624604055
These pics* were taken with 2m social distancing rules still in place at workplaces. And two weeks before hugging b… https://t.co/7GLwOKKodD— Pippa Crerar (@Pippa Crerar) 1624603838
It does feel like there's two questions to answer though. First: On breaking covid guidance through close physical… https://t.co/qjQvArPVrx— Ian Dunt (@Ian Dunt) 1624604516
Elsewhere, the tone has been one of mockery for Hancock with this story coming after a string of controversies and criticisms that have been aimed at the health secretary since the pandemic began.
how is Hancock having more of a hot girl summer than me— Tara Jane O’Reilly (@Tara Jane O’Reilly) 1624605016
Oh no. Log off. don't look. Cannot be unseen.— Barney Ronay (@Barney Ronay) 1624604880
Today is the perfect day to discover the exact moment people wake up, simply by looking at the time under their first Matt Hancock tweet.— Richard Osman (@Richard Osman) 1624604026
I just can’t believe that absolutely anybody in public life would do that with Matt Hancock.— Tom Peck (@Tom Peck) 1624604142
How does Hancock have the time? I work from home and I can barely manage to walk the dog.— Hugo Rifkind (@Hugo Rifkind) 1624606340
https://t.co/3ysGWJrJVf— James Felton (@James Felton) 1624606882
it should be law that you don’t have to see politicians getting it on before 9am— Bethany Dawson (@Bethany Dawson) 1624606991
Having a bad day @MattHancock? Just count yourself lucky you don’t have to learn the Charleston— Seann Walsh (@Seann Walsh) 1624617071
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. "Th… https://t.co/QRNy93kaIZ— Haggis_UK 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 (@Haggis_UK 🇬🇧 🇪🇺) 1624604857
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”.
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