Over in the UK Matt Hancock, the minister of health in Boris Johnson’s government, who presided over a poor handling of the covid-19 pandemic that saw the UK have relatively high totals of deaths and infections, has resigned just a day after it was revealed that he was having an affair. Johnson had earlier said that he had accepted his apology and that he considered the matter closed but Hancock resigned soon after.
What triggered the resignation was ostensibly not the affair itself but that while conducting it Hancock was violating the very health rules that he had been urging on others to avoid all physical contact with people who are not members of their family.
It is understood that Hancock had been considering resigning since Friday after his apology for kissing his closest aide, Gina Coladangelo, in his ministerial office – in breach of his own Covid-19 rules – failed to quell public outrage.
The resignation is a massive blow to the authority of the prime minister, who had stood by the 42-year-old following his apology, declaring the matter to be “closed”.
It was becoming increasingly clear from early yesterday that Hancock’s position was untenable and that Johnson’s defence of him was creating an angry public mood. There were also reports that Hancock had told his wife of 15 years on Thursday night that he was leaving her. Before the story of his affair was reported in the Sun, Martha Hancock is said to have been unaware of it.
It is understood that Coladangelo is also leaving her role as a non-executive director of the health department, following a series of questions about how she secured the role and her influence within Hancock’s office.
So if you are keeping score, there were three strikes against Hancock. His poor handling of the pandemic, his affair with an aide, and his violation of the covid-19 restrictions while conducting the affair. While the affair is undoubtedly a private matter that by itself would not have been disqualifying, I suspect that if the security camera photos and videos of him and Coladangelo in his office had not been made public by the tabloid The Sun, he would not have had to resign. Those images were a kind of accelerant to the fire that was surrounding him. Sex scandals get people’s attention like nothing else.
Hancock had to have known that there were security video cameras in his own office that are presumably visible. Which prompts the question: How could he have been so reckless as to behave that way in full view of them? Is the man daft? The leak of security footage, which is supposed to be kept confidential, suggests that Hancock had enemies within the ministry, and now the hunt is on.
The Mail on Sunday reported that the leaker sent messages via Instagram to the unnamed anti-lockdown activist. One said: “I have some very damning CCTV footage of someone that has been recently classed as completely f***ing hopeless. If you would like some more information please contact me.”
That was reportedly sent on 17 June, the day after Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings published text message exchanges he had with the prime minister last year in which Johnson called Hancock “totally fucking hopeless”.
A second message, sent on 19 June, said: “I really need to be careful with this but it involves him in a very compromising position with some [sic] who isn’t his wife last month.”
And a further message, sent later that day, added: “I have the full video … it’s now been deleted off the system as it’s over 30 days.”
Of course Jonathan Pie was all over this story. Language advisory, of course.