UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock quits – POLITICO
LONDON — U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned Saturday, having admitted breaking social distancing rules after pictures emerged of him kissing an aide.
In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Hancock said the government owed “it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down.”
Hancock had been under intense pressure to quit from some members of his own Conservative party, and from opposition leaders, after security camera images of him kissing Gina Coladangelo, a non-executive director of the Department of Health, were published in the Sun newspaper. The pictures were reportedly from May 6, when gatherings of two or more people were banned indoors.
The COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group had also called for him to leave his post.
“I’ve been to see the prime minister to resign as secretary of state for health and social care,” Hancock said in a brief video statement posted on Twitter.
“Those of us who have made these rules have got to stick by them and that’s why I’ve got to resign.”
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid will replace Hancock, Downing Street said in a statement. Javid, who is also a former home secretary and business secretary, resigned as chancellor after Johnson asked him to sack all of his advisers in February last year.
Johnson, who had publicly backed Hancock on Friday, said he was “sorry” he had quit. In a reply to Hanock’s resignation letter, Johnson said he “should leave office very proud of what you have achieved — not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before COVID-19 struck us.”
He also hinted that Hancock could return to high office at some point in the future. “I am grateful for your support and believe that your contribution to public service is far from over,” Johnson wrote.
Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted: “Matt Hancock is right to resign. But Boris Johnson should have sacked him.”
Hancock, one of the most high-profile members of the U.K. government tackling the coronavirus crisis, had condemned other public figures for breaches of rules imposed to fight the pandemic.
This article has been updated.