British Official Photographed in a Clench Steps Down

Matt Hancock, Johnson's health minister, broke social distancing guidelines with an adviser
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 26, 2021 2:25 PM CDT
British Official Photographed in a Clench Steps Down
Health Secretary Matt Hancock leaves after a coronavirus media briefing last month in Downing Street in London.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)

"Those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them," Britain's health minister says in a video posted Saturday, "and that's why I've got to resign." Matt Hancock said he'd resigned in person to Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier in the day, per CNN. On Friday, Hancock had apologized for breaking social distancing guidelines after the Sun published photos of him kissing and embracing an adviser. Hancock resisted resigning, per the New York Times, but relented as politicians demanded he quit. The story also renewed criticism over double standards on coronavirus restrictions for political leaders. One of them, Dominic Cummings, who called for Hancock's removal, lost his job as an adviser to Johnson after traveling to see his parents last year during the lockdown.

The Sun reported that Hancock and the adviser, Gina Coladangelo, are having an affair, and that the photos were taken in an office on May 6. Social distancing in workplaces isn't the law, the BBC points out, but a recommendation. At that time, England was in the restrictions' Stage 2, which prohibited meetings of two or more people indoors unless they were "reasonably necessary." A lawyer who works on such cases said, "I cannot see how that exception could apply in the circumstances." A week earlier at 10 Downing St., Hancock had asked the public to "remember the basics of hands, face, space, and fresh air." Coladangelo's hiring is also an issue; the code of conduct for ministers includes a section about conflicts of interest. "There is a good case to be made that Hancock may have broken some... aspects of the ministerial code," an Institute of Government official said. (More Britain stories.)

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