Hancock Under Pressure to Quit, Most Britons Back Health Sec Resigning

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock gives an update on the coronavirus Covid-19 pandem

Matt Hancock is under pressure to resign as health secretary after footage appeared to reveal him having an affair with an aide.

In response to the images first reported in The Sun appearing to show the married father of three kissing and embracing married mother of three Gina Coladangelo — apparently in breach of social distancing guidance — Prime Minister Johnson has signalled that he is not expecting Mr Hancock’s resignation, saying via a spokesman that he “accepted the Health Secretary’s apology and considers the matter closed”.

However, Conservative MPs have told The Guardian that they are already receiving angry communications from their constituents demanding the minister, who has overseen the management of the UK’s Chinese coronavirus response, step down.

The footage was allegedly taken before social distancing rules were relaxed to allow physical contact (i.e., hugging) between people of different households.

One MP told the newspaper that people cannot abide double standards, the remarks in relation to the minister recommending Britons to refrain from embracing their loved ones.

The MP said: “It just doesn’t sit right. I thought that the moment I heard about it. It’s not that we don’t make mistakes in our personal lives, but it’s very difficult if the minister telling people they can’t visit their grandparents or go to sports days is then found snogging his non-executive director in the office.

“It’s the sense of unfairness that makes it so bad. People can’t abide a double standard.”

While the health secretary signalled on Friday that he is not intending to step down, last May he had backed Professor Neil Ferguson’s resignation as government advisor after he was likewise caught meeting his married lover in contravention of lockdown laws, even saying he would support the police investigating the matter.

A YouGov poll from Friday found that nearly half, 49 per cent, of Britons said they thought Mr Hancock should resign, with just 25 per cent saying he should remain in post (27 per cent responded “don’t know”). The proportion of those that wanted Hancock to stop down is up significantly from 36 per cent in May.

One government source told The Times: “It’s a failure of leadership, and it will be a failure of Boris’s leadership if he stands by him. The sleaze accusations will just run and run.”

Scotland Yard has said that it would not be investigating any potential breaches of the law and that “this remains a matter for the relevant government department”.

Behavioural specialists have also warned that Hancock being caught breaking guidance would undermine the public confidence in the rules and lead to an erosion of their adherence.

“If the public are being fined for the same kinds of actions, will the health secretary also be fined, to communicate that he doesn’t have some kind of special dispensation?” SAGE sub-committee member Professor John Drury questioned.


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