Boris under pressure to sack Matt Hancock as Tories warn growing public anger could make it his 'Barnard Castle moment'

BORIS Johnson is coming under increasing pressure from his own MPs to sack his under-fire Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Conservative MPs have expressed their frustration to party whips over Hancock’s “hypocritical” behaviour and told Boris Johnson to “pull the plug”.

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A Cabinet source told The Telegraph: "If there is a Barnard Castle moment, he is going to be under quite a lot of pressure,” adding that while the Prime Minister was currently “standing by” Hancock, “it could unravel pretty quickly”.

Another senior government source said public reaction was being monitored and could ultimately determine Hancock’s fate.

The Sun revealed yesterday the Health Secretary had been caught on CCTV in a steamy clinch with his aide Gina Coladangelo in his office on May 6.

When the pair were locked in a passionate embrace, hugging was banned under the coronavirus regulations, while socialising indoors between people from different households was illegal, apart from limited exceptions.

Barrister Adam Wagner, a Covid expert, told The Sun Hancock could be prosecuted over his steamy clinch.

Mr Wagner told The Sun: “For the Health Secretary there is no leeway – a Court would not give any leeway at all. It is Matt Hancock's name at the bottom of the laws and regulations.

“He cannot plead ignorance.

“He literally is the single person in the country who has no excuse whatsoever for breaking the laws. He made them.”

The Health Secretary, 42, issued an apology earlier today but refused to resign and instead said he "has let people down and is very sorry" after his affair was exposed.

Boris Johnson accepted his apology and attempted to bring an end to the scandal by saying the matter was now “closed”.

More details though have come to light with The Sun releasing footage showing Hancock checking the coast is clear in his office before Coladangelo approaches him for an embrace.

The Sun also revealed the pair shared a cosy dinner date on May 23 with diners describing them as “flirty” as they downed glasses of wine.

It also emerged that brazen Hancock was caught in a second steamy clinch with her in his office this week.

Questions remain about Coladangelo’s appointment as a non-executive director at the Department of Health, paid £15,000 a year.

It has also emerged that Coladangelo's brother is an executive at a private healthcare company that has been awarded NHS contracts worth millions of pounds since she became an adviser to the Department of Health.

Sky News reported on Friday that Roberto Coladangelo is an executive at Partnering Health, which provides urgent and primary care services and has been awarded at least two NHS contracts.

A spokesman for Partnering Health said the company "has been operating for over 11 years and at all times has secured contracts through the robust tender and procurement processes put in place by local clinical commissioning groups. At no time have any contracts been awarded outside of these rigorous processes".

One Cabinet minister told The Telegraph Hancock’s behaviour reinforced a feeling of “us and them,” with ministers ignoring the rule they imposed on everyone else.

The minister said: This could unravel pretty quickly if the affair started before she was appointed or after. That is relevant. If there is a Barnard Castle moment, he is going to be under quite a lot of pressure."

The minister added: "I don't know how he [Hancock] has got the energy – dealing with a pandemic and doing that on the side."

One minister told Bloomberg the hypocrisy of flouting rules Hancock himself helped create would finish his career and that the pressure would eventually force him out.

Two other senior Tories, speaking to the publication, said Hancock is a divisive figure in the party and that his future depends on whether there are more damaging revelations in the coming days.

Another well-placed government source said that Downing Street was yet to sack Mr Hancock because it "doesn't want to go 'Back to Basics'", a reference to a speech by then Prime Minister John Major, promoting traditional values but was later ridiculed when it emerged he had been having an extra-marital affair with Edwina Currie.

A poll by Savanta ComRes showed on Friday that 58 per cent of UK adults thought Hancock should resign.

Tory peer Baroness Foster of Oxton accused Mr Hancock on Twitter of having "used emergency powers to impose these punitive restrictions leading to horrendous consequences across society without debate yet ignored them himself & at work!"

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “It will all be down to public opinion – it’s the only thing No 10 cares about. They’re polling, focus-grouping all the time and if that starts showing the public want him out then he could be gone by Monday.”

Sayeeda Warsi, a former Conservative Party chairman, said: “It’s a bad decision by Matt and a bad decision by the PM.

“He’s got a huge amount of questions to answer in relation to Covid contracts, access to parliament, giving out jobs. Is there anything anybody could do any more which would make them resign?”

Backbench Conservative MPs contacted their whips about the Health Secretary. One texted: "You don't need me to tell you what I think."

Another said that "children have missed out in so many ways" and that Mr Hancock's behaviour was "so hypocritical", while a third MP said the Government "is looking ridiculous now, I am sorry to say".

In May last year Hancock said he was "speechless" at the "extraordinary" behaviour of Professor Neil Ferguson, who was revealed to have met his "lover" in his home in breach of social distancing rules.

On Friday night, a source close to Mr Hancock said: "No laws have been broken. The Health Secretary and Ms Coladangelo were both in the department for legitimate work purposes."

A senior Tory MP said: "I don't think his position is tenable – it is not the affair. It is when you are putting in regulations and advice for people to live their lives by, when you advocate for it or vote for it, you shape it and then you don't do so yourself.

"For the PM to say it is a closed matter … When you start to make exceptions for special categories of people like international VIPs and government ministers, it risks throwing away the goodwill we built up because of the success of the vaccines programme.

"I am very surprised he has not simply resigned. What will follow from this is [whether there was any breach of] the ministerial code. He made that appointment as secretary of state."

A former Tory minister said Mr Johnson had to sack Hancock, saying: "His position is completely unsustainable. Boris has been through this before with Cummings and he lost an awful lot of political capital by supporting Cummings.

"Boris cannot afford to expend any more political capital on Matt Hancock. We already know he thinks he is hopeless. Boris should make sure he leaves now – he should get rid. Boris is going to get slaughtered over this if he does not get rid of him.

"What he can't afford is a re-run of Cummings. I am bracing myself for the avalanche of emails I am going to get from constituents asking 'why is the man still there?'. Boris should chop him immediately – today."

A Number 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister retained full confidence in Mr Hancock, but refused to confirm that the Health Secretary had not broken the law.

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