British Health Minister resigns for breaking social distancing rules with mistress

Boris Johnson had closed the matter but the pressure on Matt Hancock had become unbearable

3 min
Matt Hancock, Britain's health minister, with his mistress, Gina Coladangelo, leaving 10 Downing Street, in a May 1, 2020 image

LondonHe has not withstood the pressure and has finally fallen. The British Health Minister, Matt Hancock, 42, resigned this Saturday afternoon for having broken, with his mistress, the rules of social distancing that the government he was part of had imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The reason for his resignation was not his personal infidelity, which called into question a relationship of fifteen years of marriage with Martha Hancock, the mother of his three children, but to have disregarded the rules of conduct that prevailed until May 17th, and that since last year forced all Britons not to interact closely with those who were not part of the bubble of coexistence. Through Twitter, Hancock has made his decision public. The reason he has given is that "those who make the rules have to abide by them".

The images, very compromising - and even embarrassing - were recorded on May 6th, before the rules of social distancing were no longer in effect. Published on Friday in the print edition and on the website of the newspaper The Sun, the Minister is seen snogging and touching his 43-year-old married colleague Gina Coladangelo.

It rains, it pours

Hancock had already seen his figure and his political action torpedoed a few weeks ago by the devastating testimony against him, in Parliament, by Dominic Cummings, the former adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. According to Cummings, Hancock had systematically lied to the Prime Minister and was completely ineffective in taking the necessary measures to act decisively against the outbreak of the pandemic. A judgment that Johnson himself apparently shared.

In fact, in messages exchanged with the Premier, Cummings made public recently, the head of government called the Minister, allegedly, "totally useless". Even so, when the scandal of infidelity and the breaking of the anti-covid rules broke out this Friday, after Hancock apologised, Johnson closed the matter and his spokesman in Downing Street assured that he maintained full confidence in the head of the Health Department.

The scandal raises many questions. First of all, it calls into question, once again, the political judgment of Boris Johnson, who would have wanted to let the matter rest, as it appeared on Friday, and forget everything. The unbearable pressure from many Tory MPs, however, as well as from the opposition, has ended up making him decide to accept a resignation with which to try to establish a firewall between Hancock and himself. Last year, when his former adviser, the aforementioned Cummings, broke the rules of confinement, neither public opinion nor members of his own party understood that he did not force him to resign.

That Johnson did not want Hancock to resign was a given. The Minister is a totally discredited man and the head of government was waiting for the right moment - when the pandemic has been more decisively controlled - and less damaging for image, to kick him out. With the scandal unleashed, however, it has reinforced the idea that Westminster politicians can do as they please, while the public has to comply with everything they are told to do, making this political calculation impossible.

Another question mark left over from Hancock's extramarital affair concerns a possible breaking of the ministerial code, because his mistress, a friend since the 1990s when the two were students at Oxford, was initially hired as an unpaid adviser for six months in the early 2020s, before being appointed a non-executive Director of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in September last year.

The third question mark relates to the leaking of the images, which are from the same department's CCTV system. The fact that they were leaked to the press is an obvious security issue.