Matt Hancock resigned as UK health secretary
Matt Hancock, the minister tasked with fighting Britain’s biggest post-war health crisis, quit Saturday night in the face of fierce criticism of his relationship with a councilor he put on public pay.
Over the course of Saturday, support for Hancock has waned, with Conservative lawmakers saying his position had become untenable, while cabinet ministers refused to support him publicly.
Shortly after 6 p.m., Downing Street confirmed that Hancock had resigned. The minister admitted in his resignation letter that he had let people down without respecting his health guidelines.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will now have to find a new health secretary as the country begins to emerge from the pandemic, but with several health challenges ahead, including a huge NHS setback.
On Friday Johnson had appeared determined to hold Hancock, despite the health secretary admitting he had broken the direction of social distancing by kissing his adviser Gina Coladangelo in his May Whitehall office.
On Saturday night it was announced that Coladangelo had also left his position as non-executive director in the health department.
In his resignation letter, Hancock said, “We owe it to the people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we let it down as I did violating the guide.”
He added: “The last thing I want is for my private life to distract attention from the single focus that brings us out of this crisis.”
Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi is seen by some conservative officials as the best choice as Hancock’s successor; his appointment by the middle ranks of the government precludes the need for a wider restructuring of the cabinet.
Office Secretary Michael Gove, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay and Secretary of Culture Oliver Dowden have been promised as potential alternatives.
Hancock, who is married, apologized to his family for putting him to the test by seeing his relationship on the front page of all the national newspapers and said he wanted to spend time with his three children.
Former Conservatives have said there was no new revelation about his conduct that forced Hancock’s resignation, but Conservative MPs have been highly critical publicly and publicly of his initial decision to attack his post.
Duncan Baker, a North Norfolk MP, told the Eastern Daily Press: “I have in no way accepted this behavior and I have said the strongest terms with the government what I think.” Esther McVey, a former minister, told GB News “if she had been me I would have resigned”.
Johnson, in his response to Hancock’s resignation, suggested he could make a comeback at a later stage. “You should be immensely proud of your service,” he said. “I think your contribution to the public service is far from over.”
The repercussions of Hancock’s relationship with his adviser, whom he appointed for a £ 15,000 part-time job as non-executive director in his department, threatened to dominate the political debate in a crucial week for Johnson.
The Conservatives hope to win the Labor seat in Batley and Spen in a by-election on Thursday, but opinion polls have shown the public that Hancock should leave.
The paper said Hancock’s conduct showed that there was one rule for senior conservatives and another for ordinary members of the public.
A senior Conservative official said: “It was inevitable. There was real anger in the party for violating the Covid rules. ”
Social disengagement guidelines against close contact with a person from another family were lifted two weeks after Hancock was photographed on a CCTV camera in his own department kissing Coladangelo, director of communications at the chain for sale Oliver Bonas.
One of Hancock’s fellow parliamentarians said, “I was out living on Saturday morning and two separate people came to me on the street to harangue me on Hancock. I had been crossed.”
Hancock had soon introduced legislation to significantly strengthen the Secretary of State’s powers over the NHS, reversing key aspects of a controversial 2012 shake-up of the service that gave NHS England operational independence.
Under the proposed legislation, the health secretary will receive “reinforced steering powers” over the NHS including a veto on some senior health service appointments and the authority to intervene earlier on decisions about closure or the degradation of a hospital, for example.
Hancock and Downing Street had wanted to tighten their grip on the service, to ensure the general election promised to increase the number of nurses by 50,000 by the end of parliament and to offer 50m more GP appointments.
Hancock had also had to play a role in the decision of who should become the next chief executive of NHS England when Sir Simon Stevens leaves at the end of next month.