This follows on from Part 1, which traces Hancock’s political career up to the 2019 election.
2019 to 2022 – Prorogation, the Pandemic, and Resignation
2019: Hancock supported Johnson’s controversial and unlawful Prorogation of Parliament despite previously having been against it. He was also implicated in the ‘Greensill lobbying scandal’ linked to a payment scheme rolled out in the NHS. After the December election (see Part 1) he retained his Cabinet position in charge of health and social care.
2020: On 31 January, the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in the United Kingdom and we all watched as the virus changed the world overnight.
From the start, the Government was inconsistent. The Prime Minister’s statements were at odds with those of Hancock, as the Health Secretary commented on the fact that those still socialising were being “selfish”.
A key controversy at this time was the lack of protective equipment for the NHS. In late March both Hancock and Johnson tested positive for Covid.
In April it emerged that the target for Covid Tests was only reached by including tests sent in the post but not results received.
In December, he tried to claim that the fast roll-out of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) vaccine was a Brexit benefit. MHRA countered that the roll-out had happened during the ‘Transition’ period and under the procedures set out in EU law, which still applied at the time.
2021: In January Hancock went on GMTV and praised the government for supporting free school meals for the poorest children, facing a fierce challenge from Piers Morgan on why he voted against it previously.
On 19 February the High Court found that Hancock had “breached his legal obligation” and acted unlawfully by not disclosing details of the contracts signed by his department during the pandemic.
In April it was reported that Hancock held 20% of the shares of a company, owned by his sister, called ‘Topwood Limited’. The firm had been placed on a framework contract to provide services to the NHS. Number 10 claimed it was a ‘minor breach’, but Lord Geidt, the Independent Advisor on Ministers’ Interests, said it represented “a conflict of interest”. Matt Hancock denied any knowledge of the decision to add the company to the framework.
Then on 27 April, the High Court found that the Government’s plan to send untested patients to care homes was ‘unlawful’. More than 20,000 elderly or disabled care home patients died between March and June 2020 in England and Wales. Dominic Cummings would later tell parliament that “tens of thousands” died due to Covid mistakes. Boris Johnson refused to sack Hancock.
On Sunday 6 June, Hancock appeared on the Andrew Marr show on BBC1 and denied ever using the phrase ‘protective ring’ in relation to care homes.
On 26 June Matt Hancock’s extramarital affair with Gina Coladangelo was revealed. Hancock broke lockdown rules. He had also failed to declare that he had promoted Coladangelo from an unpaid advisor role to a paid non-executive director role in his department. He resigned the next day.
The Daily Mail reported on 3 July that a former pub landlord and acquaintance of Matt Hancock, who happened to be awarded a £30 million contract to provide test tubes for covid tests, had purchased a £1.3m manor house shortly after. Later that month the second largest town in his constituency, Newmarket, passed a no-confidence vote in Matt Hancock.
On the 12 October Matt Hancock announced his appointment as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s special representative for financial innovation and climate change. The offer was rescinded on 16 October.
2022 – ‘VIP Lane’ to Backbench and onto Reality TV
2022: in January a High Court Judge ruled that the ‘VIP lane’ created by the Department for Health and Social Care under Matt Hancock was unlawful. Hancock was identified by the Good Law Project as the source of 8.5% of the 47 companies referred to the VIP list.
In March the Public Enquiry into the Government’s handling of Covid-19 started.
In November it was revealed that Matt Hancock would take part in “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!” This decision provoked a public outcry. Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK took to Twitter to object.
It is reported that Mr Hancock will receive in the region of £400,000 for appearing but that a substantial amount of that money will go to charities, although the exact figure and the name of the charities are not known.
2023 – Who Dares Wins?
It has been reported but not confirmed that Mr Hancock will be appearing in the TV series Celebrity SAS: Who Dare Wins. The date of transmission is also not known. During his recent time in the “I’m a Celebrity” Camp, Mr Hancock has said he is seeking “forgiveness” from the public. Only time will tell if it is granted.