Johnson defends handling of Hancock’s exit

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Johnson on Friday publicly backed Hancock, with his spokesman saying, “The prime minister has accepted his apology and considers the matter closed.”…reports Asian Lite News.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said the exit of Matt Hancock, who had been steering the country’s battle against Covid-19, over a breach of coronavirus rules took place at the “right pace,” according to media reports.

This is in contrast with the official statement from the Downing Street a day before Hancock quit.

Johnson on Friday publicly backed Hancock, with his spokesman saying, “The prime minister has accepted his apology and considers the matter closed.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Picture by Simon Dawson No 10 Downing Street

But on Monday, Johnson told reporters, “I read the story on Friday and we’ve got a new health secretary in post on Saturday, and I think that’s about the right pace to proceed in a pandemic,” according to a Politico report.

He also admitted that Hancock had undermined the government’s message about being “all in it together” amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the prime minister’s spokesman denied any inconsistency in Johnson’s approach but emphasised that Hancock had indeed quit, rather than being sacked, it was reported.

However, Johnson acted promptly on Saturday evening to appoint former Chancellor Sajid Javid as Hancock’s successor.

Hancock’s key job in Johnson’s top team of ministers was thrown into doubt after The Sun newspaper on June 25 published photographs of the Health Secretary kissing Gina Coladangelo, one of his key aides, at the Department of Health’s London HQ reportedly during office hours in May.

According to the Guardian newspaper, the incident took place on May 6 when the public were still being advised not to hug people outside their household.

But what doomed Hancock’s cabinet career was outrage from politicians and the public that the incident broke a legally-enforceable social distancing rule he had imposed across the country to contain the pandemic.

During the pandemic, Hancock regularly appeared on Downing Street virtual briefings, detailing restrictions that must be followed in the fight against the virus.

Political expert Iain Begg from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) told Xinhua that despite that Hancock “being the minister most able to claim credit for the vaccine successes, he was undone by the charge of hypocrisy”.

“UK voters would have been tolerant of the news of his relationship, but resent the idea of leaders breaking rules. One rule for us and another for them plays very badly with citizens.”

Ruling Conservative Party lawmakers said they had been bombarded with furious complaints about Hancock’s behavior from voters in their constituencies.

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks after Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget speech. (UK Parliament_Jessica Taylor)

Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said on Saturday night that Hancock was right to resign, adding that Johnson should have fired him.

Ed Davey, leader of the minority opposition party Liberal Democrats, said on his social media site: “Matt Hancock’s legacy as Health Secretary will be one of cronyism and failure.”

British media engaged in a frenzy of coverage about his relationship with Coladangelo, a mother of three, who has also resigned from her government job.

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