If the allegations are true, then the health secretary would be in breach of the social distancing rules that his own department had issued in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.
The health secretary Matt Hancock has been accused of having an affair with one of his closest aides during the Covid pandemic, a taxpayer-funded adviser to his department.
The Sun published photographs of Hancock embracing his departmental aide Gina Coladangelo, in what the paper referred to as a ‘steamy clinch’.
The pictures are alleged to come from a security camera on May 6, the day of the local elections, from inside Hancock’s Whitehall department.
Although Hancock has now apologised, accepting that he ‘breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances’, the Tories are hoping the scandal will go away, claiming the alleged affair is a ‘private matter’. Here are all the reasons why the scandal is a matter of public interest.
A breach of social distancing rules
The health secretary has already accepted that he was in breach of the social distancing rules that his own department had issued in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19. Rules he urged the public to abide by.
At the time the photos were taken of Hancock with his aide, social distancing rules were still being strictly enforced. The rules stated that you could not socialise indoors with anyone not in your household or support bubble.
The ban on hugging people was not lifted until Step 3 of the roadmap on 17 May.
When asked if Hancock had been ignoring social distancing rules when the images were taken, transport secretary Grant Shapps told LBC he is ‘quite sure that whatever the rules were at the time were followed’.
Last year the health secretary said he had been left speechless after it was revealed that Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist and government adviser, had allowed a woman who was said to be his lover to visit his home during the first Covid lockdown.
Ferguson, dubbed ‘professor lockdown’, had played a significant role in shaping the government’s response to the pandemic. He had to resign after the revelations. Hancock said at the time: “Professor Ferguson is a very eminent and impressive scientist and the science that he has done has been an important part of what we’ve listened to.
“I think he took the right decision to resign.
“It’s a matter for the police, as a government minister I’m not allowed to get involved in the operational decisions of police matters.
“But I think the social distancing rules are very important and people should follow them.”
Gina Coladangelo is a taxpayer-funded adviser
Gina Coladangelo, with whom Hancock is accused of having an affair with and who was previously a director at lobbying firm Luther Pendragon was handed a role as a tax-payer funded non-executive director at the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) in September last year.
The role will net her £15,000 of taxpayer cash, though there is no public record of her appointment.
Coladangelo is a friend of Hancock’s from Oxford where they were both students. She was also appointed by Hancock as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract in March, leading to accusations of ‘chumocracy’.
Hancock claimed he was spending 24 hours a day saving lives
The health secretary, whose role it is to lead the government’s response to tackling one of the worst health emergencies the country has faced, has previously been criticised by Boris Johnson’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings for lying to parliament and ministers over his handling of the pandemic, allegations he denies.
Throughout the pandemic and while Cummings gave his bombshell testimony to MPs, Hancock has insisted he has been ‘busy saving lives’, the photos will lead to questions of just how focused on the job Hancock was.
Former Lobbyist given access to Parliament
Although lobbying firm Luther Pendragon has said that Coladangelo is no longer an employee of the company and ceased being so as of 2014 and resigned as a director in 2017, she is still a minor shareholder in Luther Pendragon. It will raise concerns over her access to parliament and politicians, with it widely being reported that Coladangelo had access to a parliamentary pass since April.
Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward
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