British Prime Minister; Boris Johnson today refused to sack the country’s health secretary; Matt Hancock after calls from a majority for his removal from office. Hancock had already tendered an apology but neglected to mention the wife he cheated on after he was caught on CCTV passionately kissing his most senior and closest aide; Gina Coladangelo.
“ I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances. I have let people down and am very sorry”, Hancock said.
According to the Prime Minister’s official spokesman, Mr. Johnson now ‘considered the matter closed’.
‘You have seen the Health Secretary’s statement and so I would point you to that, I don’t really have anything further to add. He accepts that he has broken the social distancing guidelines. The Prime Minister has accepted the Health Secretary’s apology and considers the matter closed’, the official said.
The official refused to answer questions on whether Mr. Hancock broke the law or ministerial code as the Health Secretary admitted he had ‘let people down’ and said sorry for flouting social distancing rules.
Hancock’s apology comes after ‘The Sun newspaper’ leaked photos of him kissing and embracing a senior aide in his office last month, at a time when it was against the rules for people to have intimate contact with a person outside their household.
The fact that he broke COVID-19 guidelines by kissing an employee has sparked fury as many accused him of hypocrisy.
The 42years-old Health Secretary has been at the center of the government’s fight against the pandemic, routinely telling people to follow strict rules and even welcoming the resignation last year of a senior scientist who similarly broke restrictions.
The opposition Labour Party also questioned whether he had broken the ministerial code: the woman, a long-time friend of Hancock’s, was appointed as a non-executive director, on a taxpayer-funded salary, to oversee and scrutinize the running of his department.
Despite the sleaze scandal Mr. Hancock still hopes to survive and 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’.
But Britain’s leading newspapers, which all splashed the story on their front pages, said Hancock had lost any moral authority and must go. One lawmaker in his party, Duncan Baker, called on him to resign.
“Mr. Hancock cannot now hope to put on a straight face and tell us how to behave and seriously expect us to listen,” The Sun said in its leader column. “There is the rank stench of hypocrisy.”
With 128,000 deaths, Britain has one of the highest official death tolls from COVID-19 in the world. While new daily cases have risen in the last month, with almost 16,000 reported on Friday, a rapid vaccine rollout appears to have broken the link between infections and deaths and most restrictions could be dropped by July 19.
British people have largely accepted the imposition of rules designed to contain the virus but the Hancock revelation drew a comparison to an incident last year when Johnson’s then most senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, also broke the rules, sparking fury across the country.
Johnson, prime minister since 2019, has refused on several occasions to sack ministers, including his interior minister who was found to have broken rules by shouting and swearing at staff, prompting the official ethics adviser to resign instead.
The prime minister has himself been criticized in an official report over his finances.
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And the country’s spending watchdog has criticized the way the government awarded billions of pounds of contracts related to fighting COVID-19 after some multi-million-pound orders went to companies with links to ministers, lawmakers, and officials.
Mr. Hancock’s kiss with Ms. Coladangelo was alleged to have taken place at the Department for Health’s headquarters in central London at around 3 pm on May 6, 2021 (the day of the UK local elections and a week after his first coronavirus jab).
According to The Sun, the duo has been having an affair that has been the talk of the department for a long time but it is not known if they were still having an affair before the date the picture was leaked.