The UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has resigned from his position after he breached Covid-19 social distancing guidelines by kissing a colleague whom he was having an affair with, the BBC reported.
MPs demand for him to be fired after scandal breaks in The Sun
The incident was first revealed by British tabloid The Sun which published CCTV footage of Hancock kissing Gina Coladangelo within his office at Whitehall on May 6.
At that time, social distancing rules included a ban on hugging. Indoor meetings between members of different households were also forbidden, The Guardian reported.
Calls for Hancock to be fired subsequently emerged from MPs within his own party, the Tories, as well as the opposition Labour Party and a pressure group known as the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK.
We've written to @BorisJohnson to tell him our position of neutrality on ministerial conduct is no longer tenable, and neither is @MattHancock position as Health Secretary.— Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK (@CovidJusticeUK) June 25, 2021
The Health Secretary should resign.
If he doesn't the Prime Minister should remove him from office. pic.twitter.com/2uvO7M3QFJ
Meanwhile, Coladangelo also left her position as a non-executive director at the UK's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Hancock: "I understand the enormous sacrifices that everybody in this country has made"
On June 27, Hancock tweeted a video explaining his decision to resign.
He said, "I understand the enormous sacrifices that everybody in country has made... and those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that's why I've got to resign."
Hancock also highlighted that he was extremely proud of the work that had been done to help the UK's National Health Service (NHS) deliver "one of the fastest (vaccine rollouts) in the world" and that he looked forward to supporting the government from the back benches.
In his resignation letter addressed to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Hancock elaborated that the "last thing he wanted" was for his private life to distract attention from the "single-minded focus" of leading UK out of the Covid-19 crisis.
He also said:
"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 be with my children at this time."
I have resigned as Health Secretary pic.twitter.com/eyWi1AA19i— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) June 26, 2021
In response, Johnson's office, No. 10, said that the Prime Minister had accepted Hancock's apology and considered the case "closed", with Sajid Javid slated to replace Hancock as Health Secretary.
Javid had previously resigned in February last year from his position as Chancellor, after rejecting Johnson's order to fire his team of aides, according to the BBC.
Honoured to have been asked to serve as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care at this critical time.— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) June 26, 2021
I look forward to contributing to our fight against the pandemic, and serving my country from the Cabinet once again.
When asked why Hancock had not been fired, Johnson was quoted as saying, "I read the story on Friday (June 26) and by Saturday (June 27) we had a new health secretary."
Hancock reportedly planning to move in with Coladangelo
The Independent reported that Hancock has since left his wife of 15 years for Coladangelo, who is also married.
Both of them have three children each in their own marriages.
According to The Guardian, both Hancock and Coladangelo reportedly plan to move in together.
Questions had previously been raised about Coladangelo's appointment as a non-executive director in November 2020, given that she had initially joined the department as an unpaid advisor on a six-month contract.
Claims of a "chumocracy" were also made when it was revealed that she had accompanied Hancock to confidential meetings and visited the Prime Minister's office and residence at No. 10.
There was also no public record of her appointment.
However, a spokesperson for No. 10 stated that the "correct procedure" for her appointment was followed, without giving more details.
Leak of CCTV footage to The Sun to be investigated
Separately, the Department of Health and Social Care said that it will launch an internal investigation into how footage from within a government building was leaked to the media, The Independent reported.
The Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, added that it was important to "get to the bottom" of the matter, given the "sensitive and important" work occurring in government offices.
Jeremy Hunt, Hancock's predecessor was quoted by the BBC as saying:
"It is completely unacceptable from a security point of view that minsters are being filmed from inside their own offices without their knowledge, and so there will be issues that our intelligence agencies will want to look at very, very carefully.
But there's also another issue which is that ministers do need to have the ability to have frank, private conversations with their senior officials to debate things so that they can understand issues, and know that those conversations will remain private."
For its part, The Sun said that it received the images from a concerned whistleblower within the government.
Top image via Matt Hancock Facebook