There is nothing more succulent for the British tabloids than the “affairs” that arise in the corridors of Westminster. There are those that go unnoticed. And then there are those that put an entire government in check. Undoubtedly, the one involving Health Minister Matt Hancock in the middle of the pandemic is among the latter. The man who is in the spotlight for his management of the health crisis yesterday starred in some torrid images in which he can be seen kissing passionately with his main advisor, Gina Coladangelo, in the corridors of the ministry, without keeping exactly the safety distances that are being asked to the citizen to stop the advance of the virus.

Hancock – a married father of three – has been in the eye of the storm for some time. In his appearance before the Westminster committee, the Prime Minister’s former advisor, Dominic Cummings, alleged that he had acted illegally, repeatedly lying to both the government and the public. Recently, messages surfaced in which Boris Johnson himself called him “fucking incompetent”. But the front page published yesterday by The Sun, where the images with his mistress are explicitly seen, are the final straw for a politician who now has his career on the line.

Hancock and Coladangelo have known each other since their Oxford college years. She is married to Oliver Tress, founder of the fashion and accessories brand Oliver Bonas, with whom she has three children. The advisor, a millionaire, has a successful career as a public relations and lobbyist, always straddling the worlds of business and politics.

A similar incident last year led to the resignation of epidemiologist Neil Ferguson as a scientific advisor to the government, when news of a secret meeting with his mistress in the middle of confinement was published. At press time, however, Hancock was reluctant to tender his resignation. “I accept that I have broken the rules of social distancing in this matter,” he acknowledged in a terse statement. “I know I have let everyone down and I am very sorry for that. I remain focused on working to bring the country out of the pandemic. I would appreciate privacy for myself and my family.” For his part, as a Downing Street spokesman explained, Johnson “accepts the apology and considers the case closed”.

The truth is that Johnson is not the best person to hold his ministers accountable for their extramarital affairs. The premier has at least six children by three different women. And his busy love life includes an alleged four-year affair with U.S. businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri, whom he employed as an adviser while mayor of London.

The problem is that the scandal with Hancock is now generating too much noise at a particularly sensitive time in the face of rising cases of the Indian variant. Daily infections exceed 16,700, figures not seen since early February.

The images published yesterday by The Sun were apparently recorded by a health ministry official. “Everyone knew what was going on, in that building there are no secrets,” he confessed to the tabloid. The affair was apparently an open secret. That particular encounter occurred shortly after 3 p.m. on May 6, 11 days before restrictions on “encounters with a person outside the home” were publicly lifted. “He put her [the aide] in such an important role, publicly funded, and this is what they do during office hours when everyone else is hard at work,” said the official, guarding his anonymity, who claimed the pair had already been “caught” on other occasions.

The Labor opposition yesterday called for the minister’s resignation for “abuse of power” and “conflict of interest” for having hired the adviser last year with public funds. “Ministers, like everyone else, are entitled to a private life – said a Labour spokesman – however, when taxpayers’ money is involved or jobs are offered to close friends who have a personal relationship with a minister, then it needs to be investigated.” Hancock was already investigated last February for misappropriation of public funds, as his former neighbor received a million-dollar contract to do Covid testing, despite lacking experience.

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