5 reasons some people really dislike Matt Hancock
A COVID legal expert has said the ex-Health Secretary appears to have admitted he did break the law - and not just social distancing guidelines.
Matt Hancock has insisted he did not “primarily” go on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! for the money as he described the 3% of his £320,000 fee he donated to charity as a “decent sum”.
The former health secretary said the £10,000 donation was “more than my MPs’ salary” that he still received while appearing on the reality TV show in the Australian jungle.
In an awkward exchange with hosts Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley, Hancock repeatedly insisted he didn't break the law when caught in a passionate embrace with Gina Coladangelo, claiming he only flouted the social distancing guidelines he was responsible for bringing in.
COVID legal expert Adam Wagner, however, said: "Matt Hancock seems to have just admitted on @GMB that the image of him was taken on 6th May 2021, when we were still in step 2. This w meant [sic] any gathering of more than one person indoors for social purposes was prohibited by law."
The interview has put Hancock's behaviour while health secretary back into the spotlight.
Yahoo News UK runs down the MP's most controversial moments while a politician that explain why he is disliked so intensely by many people.
In June 2021, Hancock was exposed as having broken coronavirus social distancing rules while having an affair in his ministerial office with aide Gina Coladangelo.
The Sun published pictures of the married cabinet minister appearing to kiss Coladangelo, who he hired as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract the previous March, before appointing her as a non-executive director at the department.
The images, captured from CCTV footage, were taken on 6 May at the headquarters of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Hancock initially tried to resist calls for his resignation and Boris Johnson also stood by him. But that made the backlash only stronger and he was ultimate forced to step down on 26 June.
Speaking about the incident earlier this year, Hancock tried to insist that he hadn't broken any rules at the time, but only COVID "guidance".
One of the most significant policy criticisms around Hancock was related to care homes.
Shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic, Hancock said the government was throwing a “protective ring” around care homes.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on 15 May, 2020, he said: “Right from the start, it’s been clear that this horrible virus affects older people most. So right from the start, we’ve tried to throw a protective ring around our care homes.”
Watch: Matt Hancock grilled by Kate Garraway on GMB
However, that was not the experience of many people, who felt that the elderly had not been prioritised. This sense intensified in May 2021 when Dominic Cummings described any claim of a "protective ring" as "complete nonsense".
“Hancock told us that people were going to be tested before they went back to care homes, what the hell happened?” Cummings said at the time. "Quite the opposite of putting a shield around them, we sent people with COVID back to the care homes."
The next month, Hancock even tried to claim he hadn't used the phrase "protective ring" in relation to care homes.
"I said that much later," he told the BBC on 6 June. "About what we were doing for the winter plan, and it’s been interpreted.”
The claim isn't true. Along with using it on 15 May, 2020, he used it on 18 May and the 19 May.
In fact, in April this year, the High Court dramatically ruled that the government's policies on discharging untested hospital patients into care homes at the start of the coronavirus pandemic were “unlawful”.
It concluded that policies contained in documents released in March and early April 2020 were unlawful because they failed to take into account the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission of the virus.
It added that there was no evidence that Hancock or anyone advising him addressed the issue of this risk to care home residents in England.
Hancock apologised but insisted he hadn't known COVID was asymptomatic at the time.
Cummings has been one of the most outspoken critics of Hancock and publicly humiliated him on several occasions – including Hancock’s early pessimism about COVID vaccines and his failure to buy PPE quickly enough.
Cummings also shared texts from Boris Johnson that described Hancock as “totally f***ing hopeless”, while Cummings himself said the former health secretary was “incompetent and dishonest”.
'Breached legal obligation'
Hancock was found to have acted unlawfully when the DHSC failed to reveal details of contracts it had signed during the pandemic, with a judge ruling that he had "breached his legal obligation" by not publishing details within 30 days of contracts being signed.
The judge added that the the public had a right to know how the contracts were awarded and where the "vast" amounts of public money had gone and what it was spent on.
Responding to the ruing, Hancock claimed there was never a national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) – despite doctors groups saying that had helped deliver 45,000 masks to hospitals that were struggling with supplies at the start of the pandemic.
He said that NHS staff “never had a national shortage, because of my team” – but photographs taken early on in the pandemic showed healthcare workers on the front line of fighting the pandemic forced to resort to using bin bags as makeshift gowns.
The pub landlord
Hancock also faced negative headlines over his alleged involvement in helping Alex Bourne, the former landlord of his local pub, to obtain a multimillion-pound contract to supply test tubes for NHS COVID testing.
However, Hancock dismissed the reports and told MPs that there was no contract between Bourne and the NHS, while the National Audit Office investigated the claims and “found all to have been done in an orderly way”, Hancock said.
Nevertheless, Hancock later appeared to remove a photo of the pub – the Cock Inn – run by Bourne from the wall of his study following the controversy.