Norfolk Tory MP calls for Matt Hancock to resign as health secretary
- Credit: UK Parliament
North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker has called for Health Secretary Matt Hancock to resign, becoming the first Conservative MP in the country to do so openly.
In a statement to this newspaper, Mr Baker said: “In my view people in high public office and great positions of responsibility, should act with the appropriate morals and ethics that come with that role. Matt Hancock, on a number of measures has fallen short of that.
“As an MP who is a devoted family man, married for twelve years with a wonderful wife and children, standards and integrity matter to me. I will not in any shape condone this behaviour, and I have in the strongest possible terms told the government what I think.”
Asked whether Mr Hancock should therefore resign, Mr Baker responded: “Yes", following up with "and I have said that to the government."
Opposition MPs have issued widespread calls for Mr Hancock to go, following the news that he conducted a secret affair with his aide, Gina Coladangelo, but no Conservative had yet joined them.
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Ms Coladangelo's appointment as his aide had already attracted controversy. She had been known to be a close friend of Mr Hancock from university, and was given a taxpayer-funded £15,000 per year role at the Department of Health.
Many on social media recalled Mr Hancock’s harsh criticism of Professor Neil Ferguson after the government adviser was found to have broken lockdown rules by arranging visits from his lover last year.
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The prime minister has so far resisted calls to sack Mr Hancock, who said he was "very sorry" for letting people down after The Sun first reported he was having an extramarital affair.
The Sun reported that its pictures of Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo, who are both married with three children, had been taken inside the Department of Health on May 6.
In a statement, Mr Hancock said: "I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances, I have let people down and am very sorry.
"I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter."
A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Johnson had accepted Mr Hancock's apology and "considers the matter closed".
MPs across Norfolk and Waveney are currently being approached for comment by the Eastern Daily Press.
Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said: "I think the whole government should resign.
"At the end of the day, Professor Neil Ferguson was a highly educated individual, and highly regarded in the fight against Covid, who Mr Hancock strongly criticised before this."
"And yet when he broke the restrictions Mr Hancock suggested he could be prosecuted.
"To now find he broke the restrictions he himself drew up, will smack of rank hypocrisy of the first order to much of the public.
"Added to recent revelations about his systemic failure at the height of the pandemic, failures which cost tens of thousands of lives, he should have gone long ago.
"But the fact he remains a minister tells you the PM still sees mileage in his use as a human shield and punch bag for his premiership."
George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, said he would not be commenting on the matter.
South West Norfolk MP and secretary of state for international trade Liz Truss said Mr Hancock "hasn't broken any rules."
During a visit to a fruit farm in Lincolnshire on Friday, Ms Truss also described it as a "personal matter" before going on to say Mr Hancock has her support in the Cabinet.
On Saturday morning, flowers were delivered to the house Matt Hancock shares with his wife Martha.
The pink peonies in a glass vase were placed on the front doorstep by a florist delivery man who arrived just after 10am.
Mr Hancock is believed to be staying at their house in Suffolk at the moment while Mrs Hancock has remained at the home in London with the children.
She was seen leaving the house early this morning for a dog walk.
A snap poll from Savanta ComRes, released hours after photographs of the pair kissing in Mr Hancock's ministerial office surfaced, found 58pc of UK adults thought that Mr Hancock should resign, compared to 25pc who thought he should not.
And the Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice group, which represents those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic, also called for Mr Hancock to go.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the group said it had broken its "position of neutrality on ministerial conduct" to urge Mr Johnson to relieve Mr Hancock of his job.