Matt Hancock Quits as England's Health Secretary

Geraldine Scott

June 26, 2021

Editor's note, 26 June 2021: This article was updated with new information and reaction.

Matt Hancock has resigned as England's health secretary the day after video footage emerged of him kissing an aide in his ministerial office in a breach of coronavirus restrictions.

Former Chancellor and Home Secretary Sajid Javid will replace Mr Hancock, Downing Street announced.

Matt Hancock/PA Media/Twitter

Images and video showed Mr Hancock in an embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo last month, and the health secretary was facing increasing pressure to quit over the breaking of social-distancing rules. Mr Hancock wrote to Boris Johnson on Saturday and said: “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.”

He said: “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.”

In response, the Prime Minister wrote: “You should leave office very proud of what you have achieved – not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before COVID-19 struck us.”

Mr Johnson had refused to sack Mr Hancock, with his spokesman saying the PM considered the matter closed after receiving the West Suffolk MP’s apology on Friday.

Today Mr Hancock released a video on Twitter in which he said he was "very proud of what we've done to protect the NHS at the peak", and to deliver the vaccine rollout. 

https://twitter.com/MattHancock/status/1408836570069753858?s=20

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Matt Hancock is right to resign. But Boris Johnson should have sacked him.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey tweeted: “Matt Hancock’s legacy as health secretary will be one of cronyism and failure."

From Student Journalist to Central Role During COVID Crisis

Having occupied three cabinet positions before reaching his 40th birthday, Mr Hancock is no stranger to being in the spotlight.

Appointed Health Secretary in 2018 after spending 18 months in the culture brief, he has been a prominent figure for the Government during its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Following a series of uncomfortable headlines in recent weeks, Mr Hancock faced pressure to resign after pictures emerged depicting him appearing to kiss his adviser Gina Coladangelo.

The CCTV images were taken on May 6 when guidance on social distancing was still in place, and hugging between people from different households was not recommended.

The front page photos came after the Prime Minister’s former aide Dominic Cummings shared text messages this month in which Boris Johnson is said to have called the Health Secretary – who caught coronavirus last year – “totally...useless”.

Mr Cummings accused the senior minister of lying to the Prime Minister over promises to protect those in care homes during the first wave of Covid-19 infections by testing new residents before being admitted.

Mr Hancock has dismissed claims he lied and called Mr Johnson’s “hopeless” jibe “ancient history”.

During the first face-to-face meeting this week between the Queen and Mr Johnson since the pandemic started, the monarch called Mr Hancock a “poor man” following his time in the limelight since the crisis kicked off in March 2020.

Mr Hancock, who in 2018 became the only MP in British politics to launch his own app, took only 8 years to rise from West Suffolk MP to Health Secretary, and has made a big play of his varied life before entering politics.

The former has made a big play of his varied life before entering politics.

The Oxford and Cambridge educated father-of-three previously worked as an economist at the Bank of England and as chief of staff to George Osborne when he was shadow chancellor of the exchequer, before becoming an MP.

Mr Hancock, who is said to have met Ms Coladangelo at university, has been married to his wife Martha for 15 years.

Ms Coladangelo, the lobbyist and aide who Mr Hancock is claimed to have had an affair with, told a BBC Radio 4 profile on the politician that the pair met at the Oxford University student radio station, Oxygen FM, where she was a news reader and he a sports reporter.

Pandemic Controversies

Here is a timeline of other occasions in the past 15 months when Mr Hancock found himself in hot water.

June 17 2020

The Health Secretary apologised for a “human mistake” after he slapped a colleague on the back in the House of Commons, despite social distancing measures still being in place to curb the spread of coronavirus.

October 11 2020

Mr Hancock was forced to deny claims that he broke the Government’s COVID drinking curfew, which was in place last autumn, after reports claimed he stayed drinking in a Commons bar beyond 10pm.

February 19 2021

The High Court found that the Government unlawfully failed to publish details of billions of pounds worth of coronavirus-related contracts.

Mr Justice Chamberlain ruled that Mr Hancock had “breached his legal obligation to publish contract award notices within 30 days of the award of contracts” after spending “vast quantities of public money” on procurement in 2020.

The Secretary of State declined to apologise.

February 23 2021

Labour accused Mr Hancock of insulting health professionals after he claimed there was “never” a national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early days of the pandemic.

In March 2020, the Royal College of Nursing said that some nurses were sent to treat patients on COVID wards with “no protection at all”.

May 26 2021

The Prime Minister’s former aide, Dominic Cummings, used his lengthy appearance in front of the Commons Health and Social Care and Science and Technology Committees to allege that the Health Secretary had lied to the Prime Minister over a promise to test new arrivals into care homes at the outset of the pandemic.

Mr Cummings said he recommended to Boris Johnson on a host of occasions that the former culture secretary should be sacked due to his handling of the crisis.

The senior minister denied the care home allegations but admitted that there were not enough tests available in spring 2020 to test everyone entering residential homes.

May 28 2021

The Health Secretary was ruled to have committed a “minor” undeliberate breach of the ministerial code by failing to declare that a family firm in which he held shares won an NHS contract, following a probe by the Prime Minister’s ethics adviser.

Independent adviser on ministerial standards Lord Geidt found that Mr Hancock, 42, should have declared that Topwood Limited, a firm owned by his sister and in which he held 20% shares, was approved as an NHS contractor.

Lord Geidt did not recommend that he resign.

June 16 2021

Mr Cummings, who left No 10 last year in a power struggle, published apparent correspondence between him and the Prime Minister in which Mr Johnson appeared to call the Health Secretary “totally...useless”.

Mr Hancock called Mr Johnson’s jibe “ancient history” when asked about the reported comments.

This article contains information from PA Media.

Article image credit: PA Media/Twitter

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