Boris Johnson has so far resisted calls to ditch Hancock – who said he was “very sorry” for letting people down after The Sun first reported he was having an extramarital affair – but the hashtag “SackMatt” continued to trend on Twitter on Saturday morning.
Here’s how users of the platform responded to the latest visual twist in the saga:
What on earth have I just watched and more importantly, how do I un-see it?
my entire flat literally gathered around watching the matt hancock video on repeat gasping in horror every time
— PERCY is: GETTIN' SLIZARD (@PERCY is: GETTIN' SLIZARD)
Despite Hancock’s declaration that he will remain in post, many consider his actions a new “Barnard Castle” moment, with Labour insisting his position is now “hopelessly untenable”.
Lawyers have acknowledged that the Health Secretary may have broken the law regarding coronavirus restrictions, although he admitted only to breaching guidance.
Downing Street may say it considers the matter “closed” but, according to the Daily Telegraph, Tory MPs are telling the Prime Minister to “pull the plug” on Hancock.
A snap poll from Savanta ComRes, released hours after photographs of the pair kissing in the minister’s ministerial office surfaced, found 58 per cent of UK adults thought that Hancock should resign, compared to 25 per cent who thought he should not.
But, almost half say that Boris Johnson would be a hypocrite if he were to ask Matt Hancock to resign given accusat… https://t.co/vl1edv7Xrf
And the Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice group, which represents those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic, also called for him to go.
In a letter to the PM, the group said it had broken its “position of neutrality on ministerial conduct” to urge Johnson to relieve Hancock of his job.
We've written to @BorisJohnson to tell him our position of neutrality on ministerial conduct is no longer tenable,… https://t.co/A9LgkDoTV6
— Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK (@Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK)
The Health Secretary is also deeply unpopular with some Conservatives who believe that he has been an obstacle to the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
In a statement released on Friday morning, Hancock said: “I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances, I have let people down and am very sorry.
“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.”
A Downing Street spokesman said Johnson had accepted his apology and “considers the matter closed”.
However, there have also been questions about Coladangelo’s appointment to her role in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
The mother-of-three, who is married to the founder of the retailer Oliver Bonas, Oliver Tress, is a friend of Hancock’s from their days together at Oxford University and was appointed to the DHSC last year.
She was initially taken on as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract in March 2020, before being appointed as a non-executive director at the department.
The Metropolitan Police (MPS) said it was not investigating any offences, which allegedly took place last month, because “as a matter of course the MPS is not investigating Covid related issues retrospectively”.
But Hancock’s troubles don’t end there – he’s also accused of breaking the ministerial code. In a letter to the PM, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministerial interests, should probe the Health Secretary’s behaviour.
Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said if Hancock, who has been married to the mother of his three children, Martha, for 15 years, had been secretly having a relationship with an adviser he appointed to a taxpayer-funded role, it was “a blatant abuse of power and a clear conflict of interest”.
A No 10 spokesman insisted the “correct procedure” had been followed in relation Coladangelo’s appointment but refused to go into detail.
Professor Stephen Reicher, a government behavioural science adviser on the Spi-B committee, said the Prime Minister sticking by aides and ministers who may have breached the rules made the repercussions for restriction compliance “toxic”.