Matt Hancock. Photo: Pippa Fowles, 10 Downing St/cropped from original/licensed under CC2.0, linked at bottom of article Matt Hancock. Photo: Pippa Fowles, 10 Downing St/cropped from original/licensed under CC2.0, linked at bottom of article

Not for the first time, a senior Tory has trashed guidelines expected from everyone else, writes Sean Ledwith

An infuriating sense of déjà vu is probably how most of the country feels about the Sun newspaper front page which broke the story of Matt Hancock’s affair with Gina Coladangelo, one of his aides at the Department of Health.

Last summer we had to endure the nauseating excuses made by the Tories for Dominic Cummings’ infamous eye test at Barnard Castle. Now government ministers are hoping Hancock’s brazen undermining of Covid messaging can be brushed off.

The image of the couple was apparently taken on May 6th of this year and shows them conspicuously flouting government guidelines on social distancing. Many people’s first reaction to the story was probably that Hancock’s career is toast and that he would be gone by the end of the day.

Indoor meetings between individuals from different households was illegal at the time the photo was taken. A man who has spent the last fifteen months telling the nation to avoid hugging or even visiting family members has been blatantly abusing his authority as a minister of state.


Coladangelo is part of the parasitical network of corporate lobbyists around Westminster and a friend of Hancock’s from Oxford University where they met on a student radio station. She helped on his woeful 2019 Tory leadership bid and was promptly rewarded with a parliamentary pass. Last year it emerged that she had been appointed initially as an unpaid advisor at the Health Department, and subsequently as a non-executive director, bringing in a salary of £15K per year.

Hannah Brady from the Covid Bereaved Families group rightly highlighted the grotesque hypocrisy involved in Hancock’s behaviour:

“To allow Matt Hancock to continue to hold the position of health secretary compounds the heartbreak of bereaved families who sacrificed so much whilst he broke the rules. It is not only an insult to bereaved families and all those who have obeyed the rules, but undermines the public’s trust in measures designed to save others from the loss we have suffered.

There is a grim inevitability about the fact that Hancock was not fired on the spot and is obviously hoping he can stagger on as Health Secretary. The only thing saving Hancock from the chop is that his boss is an even bigger cheat and liar.

Predictably the two men were nowhere in sight yesterday, arrogantly thinking a Downing Street statement would be enough to spike the story:

“The health secretary set out that he accepted he breached the social distancing guidelines, and he has apologised for that. The prime minister has accepted the health secretary’s apology and considers the matter closed.

This is a laughable defence in light of the fact we recently learnt that Johnson himself regarded Hancock’s performance last year as Totally fucking hopeless.

Sleaze 2.0

This is a government that is now mired in cronyism and corruption and where any sense of accountability has long since departed. No level of duplicity and incompetence is apparently sufficient to allow a minister to be fired from this calamitous administration.

Priti Patel has been found guilty of bullying at the Home Office and is still in office; Gavin Williamson has presided over an implosion of the school exams system and is still in post; Robert Jenrick arranged a dodgy property deal with Tory donor and pornographer Richard Desmond and is still Housing Secretary; Michael Gove supervised a secret fast-track lane for the procurement of PPE from companies recommended by Tory politicians and is still in post.

John Major’s Tory government of the 1990s became notorious for the toxic odour of sleaze which circulated around it and was ultimately brought down by the mounting resentment of the electorate. That era now looks positively benign compared to the crimes and depravities of Johnson and his corrupt crew.  

The British ruling class have now degenerated to the point where they have abandoned even the pretence of possessing a moral compass. They have become so cut off from reality that they think codes of conduct applicable to everyone else are irrelevant to them.

Throw him out

Hancock must surely be thrown out of office but not primarily for his extra-marital relationship. This is a man who is complicit in the biggest catastrophe in postwar British history and who is directly responsible for the unnecessary loss of 150K lives. This is the man who sent untested patients back into care homes, squandered billions on a dysfunctional track and trace system, broke the law on PPE procurement and offered NHS staff a derisory pay rise.

As Cummings said a few weeks ago:

“He should have been fired for at least 15, 20, things, including lying to everybody in multiple occasions, in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet room and publicly.”

We can now make that should have been fired for 15 or 21 things.

Before you go

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Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History at York College, where he is also UCU branch negotiator. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters

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