Matt Hancock: A timeline of the former health secretary’s Westminster controversies

Latest MP to try their hand at reality TV attracted plenty of criticism overseeing UK response to Covid-19 before being forced out of office over affair with aide

Joe Sommerlad
Friday 04 November 2022 10:29 GMT
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Related: Sky presenter jokes Matt Hancock should be ‘wary of hidden cameras’ as he joins I’m A Celebrity

Former UK health secretary Matt Hancock will reportedly take part in the new series of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, following the likes of Boy George, Seann Walsh and Mike Tindall into the jungle

“Matt is a sensational signing for the show as producers love a star with a story to tell – and they always hope they’ll spill the beans round the campfire,” an insider told The Sun.

“He’s the latest in a long line of figures from the political sphere, including MP Nadine Dorries, Stanley Johnson and MP Lembit Opik.”

The Conservative MP for West Suffolk was first elected in 2010 and served as head of the department of health under Theresa May and then Boris Johnson, finding himself at the centre of the storm when the Covid-19 pandemic first arrived on these shores in early 2020.

He was criticised over elements of the government’s response to the pandemic, notably a perceived lack of transparency surrounding the awarding of lucrative personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts to businesses and was finally forced to step down in June 2021, after admitting violating his own social distancing regulations when his affair with aide Gina Coladangelo was exposed.

Here’s a timeline of Mr Hancock’s occasionally scandal-hit and frequently unflatteringly-photographed time in Westminster.

6 May 2010 - Chester native, Oxford graduate, former Bank of England economist and George Osborne chief of staff Matt Hancock becomes Tory MP for West Suffolk.

6 September 2012 - Appointed minister of state for skills and enterprise, the first of a string of junior ministerial posts held under David Cameron.

15 July 2014 - Appointed minister of state for energy and minister of state for business and enterprise.

27 July 2014 - Challenged regarding policy protecting fracking in National Parks on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme but is unable to name a single village that supported the introduction of the controversial gas extraction practice.

2 October 2014 - Forced to apologise after sharing a poem on Twitter declaring the Labour Party was “full of queers”, describing the incident as an “accident”.

2 April 2015 - Criticised by environmental activists for hiring a private jet to fly back to London from a climate conference in Aberdeen.

11 May 2015 - Appointed minister for the Cabinet Office and paymaster general.

23 June 2016 - Britain votes to leave the European Union (EU). Mr Hancock backs Remain.

15 July 2016 - Appointed minister of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

8 January 2018 - Promoted to secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, succeeding Karen Bradley.

2 February 2018 - Launches his own mobile app to keep constituents abreast of his movements, which was later found to collect users’ personal data, albeit with their consent.

9 July 2018 - Appointed health secretary in Ms May’s final Cabinet reshuffle, succeeding Jeremy Hunt.

25 May 2019 - Announces plan to stand for party leadership one day after Ms May’s resignation.

14 June 2019 - Withdraws from race after first ballot and endorses Mr Johnson, the eventual winner. Retained as health secretary in the latter’s first Cabinet.

31 January 2020 - First coronavirus cases diagnosed in Britain.

23 March 2020 - Mr Johnson announces first national lockdown to stop the spread of the virus.

27 March 2020 - Both Mr Hancock and Mr Johnson test positive for the disease and are forced into quarantine.

11 May 2020 - Mr Hancock criticised by the UK Statistics Authority when it emerged that the target he had set for 100,000 daily Covid tests had been met only by changing the method of counting.

19 October 2020 - The Daily Mirror publishes a picture of Mr Hancock riding in a chauffeur-driven car without a face mask.

21 October 2020 - Ridiculed by Piers Morgan on ITV’s Good Morning Britain after applauding the government’s U-turn on free school meals in response to a pressure campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford and others, despite his having voted against funding them.

2 December 2020 - Rebuked for suggesting the UK’s fast vaccine approval was only possible because of Brexit, whereas EU legislation was in place at the time.

19 February 2021 - High Court judge rules that Mr Hancock acted unlawfully earlier in the pandemic by handing out PPE contracts without publishing details on the recipients within 30 days, as he was obliged to do under Contract Award Notices protocol, only having done so within 47 days.

26 May 2021 - Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s controversial adviser, appears before MPs and says “tens of thousands of people died who didn’t need to die” during the pandemic due to government blunders and that Mr Hancock should have been fired on “15 to 20” different occasions.

25 June 2021 - The Sun publishes CCTV stills from 6 May showing Mr Hancock embracing health department aide Ms Coladangelo, with whom he was having an extramarital affair, breaking his own Covid rules in the process.

26 June 2021 - Despite Mr Johnson saying he had accepted Mr Hancock’s apology and considered the matter “closed”, Mr Hancock resigns in disgrace, saying that those who make the rules must observe them, amid a storm of condemnation. He separates from his wife of 15 years, osteopath Martha Hoyer Millar, with whom he has three children.

12 October 2021 - Mr Hancock announces his appointment as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa new special representative for financial innovation and climate change.

16 October 2021 Following objections to his hiring, the UN rescinds the job offer.

21 April 2022 - Forthcoming publication of Mr Hancock’s diaries announced by Biteback, a juicy prospect for those interested in the Johnson years in No 10.

24 October 2022 - Embarrassingly snubbed by new PM Rishi Sunak on the steps of Conservative Party headquarters as he celebrates his ascension with well-wishers. Mr Hancock’s return to the frontbench suddenly looks unlikely.

1 November 2022 - Reported to be a contestant on 22nd series of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here and swiftly suspended as an MP by his party.

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