Sajid Javid announced as Health Secretary after Matt Hancock resigns

Boris Johnson moves quickly to fill health post – with pandemic ongoing – after Matt Hancock quit for breaking Covid rules

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 26 June 2021 22:50
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Matt Hancock announces resignation from government after admitting breaking Covid rules

Sajid Javid is the new health secretary, in a dramatic return to the cabinet for the former chancellor who quit in a clash with Dominic Cummings.

Boris Johnson moved quickly to fill the post – with the pandemic ongoing – after the resignation of Matt Hancock for breaking Covid rules.

Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove were tipped to replace Mr Hancock, but the prime minister has instead turned to Mr Javid after a healing of relations between the pair, following Mr Cummings’s departure last year.

The appointment of a backbencher avoids the need for a wider reshuffle.

Mr Javid said late on Saturday he was “honoured” to be back around the cabinet table.

“I look forward to contributing to our fight against the pandemic, and serving my country from the cabinet once again,” he tweeted.

Mr Javid resigned in February 2020, in protest at Mr Cummings demand for him to sack his advisers to end a briefing war in Downing Street – making him the shortest-serving chancellor for more than 50 years.

Tensions had risen between Mr Johnson and Mr Javid over spending plans and the power of the two offices, reaching a tipping point with a demand for him to accept advisers picked by No 10.

As well as Covid, his new job hands Mr Javid the task of bringing down a terrifying surge in NHS waiting lists, which stand at more than 5 million people, with staff burnout and shortages a major problem.

He must also help thrash out a solution to the social care crisis – promised by the autumn – after a decade of inaction by the government.

Mr Hancock was known to favour a German-style insurance scheme to cover care costs, but this would involve some form of tax rise to pay for those near the end of their working lives.

He bowed to the seemingly inevitable by resigning the day after video footage emerged of him kissing an aide in his ministerial office, in a breach of coronavirus restrictions.

The departure raises fresh questions about Mr Johnson’s judgement – after the prime minister accepted his apology for the breach and tried to declare the matter closed.

On Saturday, Conservative MPs began to break ranks to call for Mr Hancock to go, veteran Tory Christopher Chope saying his constituents were “seething”.

Duncan Baker, a Norfolk MP, 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.”

In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Hancock said: “I understand the enormous sacrifices that everybody in this country has made, you have made. And those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that’s why I’ve got to resign.”

In response, the prime minister wrote: “You should leave office very proud of what you have achieved – not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before Covid-19 struck us.”

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