Matt Hancock Has Resigned After Admitting Breaking Covid Rules During Alleged Affair
Matt Hancock has resigned as health secretary after admitting he broke coronavirus guidance during an alleged affair with aide Gina Coladangelo.
Hancock submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday evening after earlier admitting he was “very sorry” for breaking his own department’s rules around social distancing.
He will be replaced as health secretary by Sajid Javid.
"The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis," Hancock said in a letter to Johnson.
"I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need to be with my children at this time".
He added: "We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance".
Responding to Hancock, Johnson in a letter said: "You should leave office very proud of what you have achieved — not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before Covid-19 struck us.
"You should be immensely proud of your service. I am grateful for your support and believe that your contribution to public service is far from over".
Hancock's replacement Javid, the Conservative MP for Bromsgrove, was appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequor by Johnson when he first became Prime Minister in 2019.
However, he dramatically quit in February 2020 after Johnson asked him to fire his advisors in the Treasury and replace them with personnel chosen by Downing Street. There was also friction between Javid and Dominic Cummings, the then chief advisor to the Prime Minister.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats had called for Hancock's resignation after pictures emerged of him kissing friend and aide Gina Coladangelo in his departmental office.
The pictures, which appeared to be stills from CCTV footage captured in his Whitehall office, were published by the Sun on Friday morning.
They show the former health secretary in what the paper described as a "steamy clinch" with the aide on 6 May, when indoor mixing was banned.
In statement on Friday, Hancock had apologised for his behaviour but did not choose to offer his resignation.
He said: “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.”
And speaking on Friday afternoon, a Downing Street spokesperson said the Prime Minister had “accepted” the apology and considered the matter “closed”.
Responding to Hancock's resignation, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth questioned why Johnson hadn't sacked Hancock when it emerged he had breached social distancing rules.
“It is right that Matt Hancock has resigned," he said. "But why didn't Boris Johnson have the guts to sack him and why did he say the matter was closed?
“Boris Johnson has demonstrated that he has none of the leadership qualities required of a Prime Minister".
Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted: "Matt Hancock is right to resign. But Boris Johnson should have sacked him".
Covid-19 guidelines in place on 6 May prohibitied people from two different households hugging unless they were in a Covid 'bubble' together.
In early May, Department of Health and Social Care rules had also ordered workplaces to enforce a 2-metre social distancing rule between employees.
The embattled former minister had also been facing calls for a probe into whether he had broken the ministerial code over the alleged relationship with Coladangelo, who had been appointed as a salaried non-executive director of his department earlier this year.
In a letter to Johnson, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner called for Hancock to be sacked or that Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministers’ interests should launch a probe into whether he had breached the ministerial code.
Speaking on Friday morning, transport secretary Grant Shapps had referred to the story as an "entirely personal" matter.
And asked whether the issue could cost the health secretary his job, he told the BBC's Today programme: "There has for a long time been a complete difference between what people do in their job...and what they do in their personal lives."
Pressed on Hancock having potentially breaching social distancing rules, he added: "I'm quite sure that whatever the rules were at the time were followed.
"You'll recall that there was a point at which social distancing rules were changed but, as I say, I don't want to comment on somebody else's private life - that is for them."
The reports had come amid growing pressure on Hancock who had allegedly been described by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as "f**king useless" in text messages with former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings in the early months of 2020.
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