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HANCOCK QUITS OVER KISS ROW.

Byline: RACHEL WEARMOUTH newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk

THE UK Government's Health Secretary Matt Hancock quit last night amid widespread anger over his breach of Covid restrictions.

Pressure had been mounting on the embattled minister after stills and CCTV revealed him kissing government aide and millionaire lobbyist Gina Coladangelo.

The image - released by The Sun - was reportedly taken on May 6, at a time when England's law banned indoor social gatherings of people from different households, and guidance urged people to stay two metres apart and avoid "face to face contact".

Mr Hancock had made a desperate attempt hang on to his job and dodge allegations of hypocrisy by issuing an earlier apology.

"I have let people down and am very sorry," he said at the time the story first broke, admitting he broke the "guidance" he wrote "in these circumstances". But yesterday evening he issued a statement announcing his departure as England's Health Secretary after nearly two days of mounting pressure.

"The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis," he 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.

"We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance."

Mr Hancock's decision came after the cracks began to show in Conservative support.

Boris Johnson initially stood by Mr Hancock, after a video of an embrace with university friend and Department of Health non-executive director Gina Coladangelo was published on Friday.

But Conservative MP Duncan Baker was the first yesterday to confirm he was calling for him to go, while former Cabinet minister Esther McVey said she would resign if in the same position.

Mr Hancock's breach of the rules has been likened to that of former chief aide to the Prime Minister Dominic Cummings, who infamously drove to Barnard Castle in County Durham during a national lockdown.

But unlike that incident, most Tory MPs have so far remained quiet in their support for, or condemnation of, the Health Secretary.

North Norfolk MP Mr Baker was believed to be the first MP to openly call for Mr Hancock to go.

He told the Eastern Daily Press newspaper: "In my view people in high public office and great positions of responsibility should act with the appropriate morals and ethics that come with that role.

"Matt Hancock, on a number of measures, has fallen short of that. As an MP who is a devoted family man, married for 12 years with a wonderful wife and children, standards and integrity matter to me.

"I will not in any shape condone this behaviour and I have in the strongest possible terms told the Government what I think."

Ms McVey told GB News: "If it would have been me, I would have resigned myself, and I said that for

Dominic (Cummings), and I'm hoping that Matt Hancock is thinking the same thing, that he doesn't have to have it pushed upon him."

She said it would be "viewed far more admirably" if he resigned.

A snap poll from Savanta ComRes, released hours after photographs of the embrace surfaced, found 58% of UK adults thought that Mr Hancock should resign, compared with 25% who thought he should not.

CAPTION(S):

Health Secretary Matt Hancock with adviser Gina Coladangelo last month YUI MOK
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Author:RACHEL WEARMOUTH newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 27, 2021
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