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Labour has called for a probe into Matt Hancock’s alleged affair with a close aide after pictures emerged of the health secretary apparently kissing his colleague.
The Sun published the photos of Hancock, who is married, in his office in a clinch with a woman reported to be Gina Coladangelo, who he hired as a non-executive director at the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Hancock is facing questions about whether he broke Covid rules when the image was taken on May 6, when hugging people from other households was still largely not allowed. Rules were eventually relaxed to allow friends and family to hug from May 17.
Labour meanwhile questioned whether there have been any conflicts of interest in the appointment of Coladangelo, who Hancock reportedly first met at Oxford University.
According to the Sunday Times, Coladangelo was hired by Hancock in March 2020 as an adviser before being appointed in September as a non-executive director role, which will see her earn at least £15,000 of taxpayers’ money, which could rise by a further £5,000.
Coladangelo is also marketing and communications director at retailer Oliver Bonas, and is reportedly a major shareholder in lobbying firm Luther Pendragon.
A Labour spokesperson said: “Ministers, like everyone, are entitled to a private life.
“However, when taxpayers’ money is involved or jobs are being offered to close friends who are in a personal relationship with a minister, then that needs to be looked into.
“The government needs to be open and transparent about whether there are any conflicts of interests or rules that have been broken.”
Hancock has already been under pressure following a string of attacks from Boris Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings.
Cummings accused Hancock of repeatedly lying to ministers and officials during the Covid pandemic, which the health secretary denies, and recently published WhatsApp messages which revealed that the prime minister thought his Cabinet colleague’s performance was “totally fucking hopeless”.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said he was “sure” that Hancock and Coladangelo followed Covid rules.
He told LBC Radio: “I’m quite sure that whatever the rules were at the time were followed.”
Shapps also said Coladangelo would have gone through an “incredibly rigorous” process to get the job, telling Sky News: “First of all, I think the actual issue is entirely personal for Matt Hancock.
“In terms of rules, anyone who has been appointed has to go through an incredibly rigorous process in government, so whatever the rules are, the rules will have to be followed.
“There are no short cuts to that, as anyone who has had anything to do with the appointments system in the civil service knows.
“There are very strict rules in place.”