The UK Is Freaking Out Over a Photo of the UK Health Secretary Kissing His Adviser

Matt Hancock has apologised after a tabloid newspaper published a picture apparently showing him kissing a millionaire lobbyist who he secretly appointed at the height of the COVID pandemic.
Simon Childs
London, GB
Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock (L), looks at the phone of his aide Gina Coladangelo as they leave the BBC in central London on the 6th of June, 2021, after appearing on the BBC political programme The Andrew Marr Show. Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via
Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock (L), looks at the phone of Gina

Coladangelo as they leave the BBC in central London on the 6th of June, 2021, after appearing on the BBC political programme The Andrew Marr Show. Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Image

People in the UK are struggling to focus and get any work done after a tabloid newspaper published a picture of the country’s health secretary kissing an adviser in the office.

A still CCTV image obtained by the Sun newspaper appears to show Matt Hancock embracing Gina Coladangelo, a millionaire lobbyist who Hancock controversially appointed as an aide last year. 

The Sun said the photo was taken on the 6th of May this year, almost two weeks before rules that prevented people from hugging anyone outside their household bubble were relaxed. The Labour Party has called for Hancock to be sacked, saying his position is “hopelessly untenable”.

Advertisement

Hancock apologised saying, “I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances. I have let people down and I’m sorry.”

However he indicated that he wanted to stay in his position. “I remain focussed on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter,” he said.

The Sunday Times reported last year that Hancock did not declare the appointment of Coladangelo – a close friend who he met at Oxford University – to an unpaid advisory position at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). In September she was appointed as non-executive director of DHSC, a £15,000 a year role meaning she was responsible for scrutinising the department.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour Party Chair said: “If Matt Hancock has been secretly having a relationship with an adviser in his office – who he personally appointed to a taxpayer-funded role – it is a blatant abuse of power and a clear conflict of interest.

“The charge sheet against Matt Hancock includes wasting taxpayers’ money, leaving care homes exposed and now being accused of breaking his own COVID rules. His position is hopelessly untenable. Boris Johnson should sack him.”

Coladangelo is director of lobbying firm Luther Pendragon. She is married to Oliver Tress, founder of department store Oliver Bonas, where Coladangelo is communications director. Hancock has been married to Martha Hoya Miller for 15 years. They have three children. 

Advertisement

A DHSC spokesman told the Sun that the appointment was “made in the usual way and followed correct procedure”. Hancock’s Cabinet colleague Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, told Sky News “whatever the rules are, the rules will have to be followed.” He said he would not comment on the alleged affair, which he described as an “entirely personal” matter.

The story come days after former government adviser Dominic Cummings revealed WhatsApp messages in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the Health Secretary – who he appointed and has kept in his post throughout the pandemic – “totally fucking hopeless”. On Thursday Hancock was described as a “poor man” by the Queen at her first in-person meeting with Johnson for 15 months.

In addition, Labour is demanding an investigation into Hancock’s promotion of Babylon Healthcare, a private healthcare company whose shareholders donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative Party and thousands of pounds to Hancock’s campaign to lead the party in 2019.

Hancock has said he uses Babylon’s products personally. He also attended an event marking a $100 million investment in the company and endorsed the company’s services in a newspaper advertorial supplement, according to Shadow Health Secretary Angela Rayner, who wrote to Johnson’s ethics advisor Christopher Geidt.

Rayner asked, “Why has the health secretary been hawking the wares of a private healthcare company without declaring that the firm’s shareholders have made significant donations both to the Conservative party and to himself personally when promoting this company?”