A forced confession, a shocking revelation and an inevitable resignation – how Hancock affair unfolded

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Within 48 hours of the CCTV images of the Health Secretary in a passionate embrace with an aide becoming public, he was forced to resign
Within 48 hours of the CCTV images of the Health Secretary in a passionate embrace with an aide becoming public, he was forced to resign

On Thursday evening, Matt Hancock apparently told his wife, Martha, he had something to confess.

The Health Secretary, 42, admitted he had been having an affair with his aide and old Oxford university friend Gina Coladangelo, 43, and that he had decided to leave her.

Then, while Mrs Hancock was presumably still reeling from the shock, came The Sun’s front page, with that image of her husband and Ms Coladangelo, herself married, in a passionate embrace, the looming publication of which had clearly forced his hand and his confession.

It now seems premature if not outright wishful thinking for Boris Johnson to have declared that he considered “the matter closed” within hours of those now famous CCTV images of his Health Secretary becoming public.

Indeed within 48 hours, Mr Hancock had been forced to resign from his Cabinet position, the pressure from both the public and a small but growing number of fellow Tory MPs making his position untenable.

His downfall began when he received a telephone call from The Sun at around 6pm on Thursday evening, setting out details of the leaked images obtained by the newspaper which would expose his affair with Ms Coladangelo.

On Friday morning, the newspaper published a cringe-inducing set of CCTV stills, showing Mr Hancock in an embrace with his senior aide, who had been appointed as a £15,000 non-executive director in the same department he oversaw.

Jaws fell slack around the country at the sight of the pair kissing passionately on May 6 – at the time when Mr Hancock was urging the public to maintain social distancing to help stem the spread of the new Covid variant.

The scandal only worsened when even more embarrassing moving images from the same CCTV were released by the Sun on Friday night.

By Saturday morning, the clamour for Mr Hancock to go was growing, despite the Prime Minister’s protestations of support.

Backbenchers round on Health Secretary

Behind the scenes, Tory backbenchers bombarded whips with messages demanding that Mr Johnson sack Mr Hancock. But the dam began to break when Duncan Baker, a member of the 2019 intake of MPs, issued a statement calling for the Health Secretary to quit – the first Tory to say publicly what so many were saying privately.

Mr Baker told the North Norfolk News: “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.”

Asked whether Mr Hancock should resign, Mr Baker responded: “Yes”.

As the day went on, he was joined by Esther McVey, the former minister, and Christopher Chope, another backbencher.

William Wragg, the chairman of the Commons public administration committee, said Mr Hancock’s actions highlighted how the Covid-19 regulations had “created a dystopian world of denunciation, finger-wagging & hypocrisy”, adding that “the revolution always consumes its own”.

One former minister said: “If anything I think it’s worse than the Cummings episode because here you have got the Cabinet minister overseeing the lockdowns himself quite blithely doing what he was telling everyone else they shouldn’t do.”

By now all the parties involved had gone to ground.

Shockwaves among the families

Mr Hancock was nowhere to be seen, apparently having retreated to his Suffolk bolthole. Ms Coladangelo was thought to have sought refuge at her wealthy father’s home in Oxfordshire.

Outside Mr Coladangelo’s home in Steeple Morden, a family friend said: “I am in communication with them. It’s tough. Gina is not particularly happy. She does not want to talk to anybody, it is all just too soon. It is all just a shock to us all, everybody, friends and family actually.”

Martha Hancock endured her husband's confession, then the publication of picture of his infidelity in a tabloid newspaper
Martha Hancock endured her husband's confession, then the publication of picture of his infidelity in a tabloid newspaper

As the fallout over those incriminating images continued, flowers were delivered to the house Mr Hancock shares with his wife, Martha. The pink peonies in a glass vase were placed on the front doorstep by a delivery man who arrived just after 10am.

Mrs Hancock has remained at the home in London with their children. From here she emerged early on Saturday morning to take her dog for a walk.

Later that day, a friend of Mr Hancock claimed: “Matt and Gina are in love. It started in May but it is serious.”

As the day wore on, a growing number of Conservative MPs who had begun to take the measure of their constituents’ feelings were beginning to report the bad news to senior party figures.

Among voters, including many Tories, the anger at what they regarded as Mr Hancock’s hypocrisy, his apparent “one rule for them, another for me” attitude to people who had spent months not being able to hug elderly or vulnerable loved ones, was palpable. If Mr Hancock and Downing Street failed to get the message, Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 committee of backbenchers, was preparing to tell the Chief Whip that the Health Secretary must go.

He had to go. And by early Saturday evening it was announced he had.

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