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A Tory has brazenly claimed Matt Hancock deserves "credit" for quitting after he broke Covid rules with an extra-marital snog.
Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis suggested the nation should praise the Health Secretary – despite the fact he tried to cling to his job for more than 24 hours before finally resigning last night.
He even shamelessly said Mr Hancock had put his family first – despite the Mirror understanding the ex-Health Secretary told his wife on Thursday night that he was leaving her.
Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Lewis tried to spin the situation by saying Mr Hancock had put both his family and the entire population of the UK first by quitting, to avoid "distracting" from Covid rules.
He said Mr Hancock “should be proud” of his work during the pandemic, which included the vaccine rollout.
And he even claimed "people will see" the randy Health Secretary was "focused on dealing with the pandemic", despite CCTV showing him snogging a colleague in his office in the middle of the afternoon.
Matt Hancock pictured kissing his aide Gina Coladangelo
(Image: Image: The Sun)
Mr Lewis told Sky News: "What Matt did was wrong. He acknowledged that, that’s why he apologised immediately for his behaviour and acknowledged what he did was wrong.
"And it’s also why he’s taken the decision that his position was untenable and distracting from the wider work that we’ve all got to do to move forward… and out of the pandemic."
He added: “I think in doing that, he’s put his family and indeed all of us across the UK first, because he wants to focus as the PM does, as we all do, on getting out of this pandemic in the best possible way and as quickly as we can.”
Mr Lewis' comments come despite Mr Hancock's allies denying he broke Covid laws and saying he'd stay in his job on Friday.
Downing Street also tried to defend the Health Secretary, saying Boris Johnson considered the matter closed.
The startling image of Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo was taken on May 6 – when England's law banned indoor social gatherings of people from different households, and guidance urged people to stay two metres apart and avoid "face to face contact".
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Brandon Lewis deflected questions today on why Boris Johnson allowed Mr Hancock to keep his job, saying the public now want ministers to focus on “getting on with the job of government”.
Sky News host Trevor Phillips today told Mr Lewis: “On May 11, my family buried my daughter who had died not of Covid but during the lockdown.
“Three hundred of our family and friends turned up online, but most of them were not allowed to be at the graveside, even though it was in the open air, because of the rule of 30. Because of instruction by Mr Hancock.
“Now, the next time one of you tells me what to do in my private life, explain to me why I shouldn’t just tell you where to get off?”
Sky News host Trevor Phillips today told Mr Lewis: “On May 11, my family buried my daughter"
(Image: Sky News)
Mr Lewis replied: “I absolutely accept and understand the frustration and even the anger that people have, having been through the situations they’ve been through.
“I’ve lost friends, there’s funerals I’ve not been able to go to over the last period. That is such a tragic situation for any of us to be in.”
Yet the Northern Ireland Secretary claimed Mr Hancock had put the entire population of the UK first by quitting, and “should be proud” of his work during the pandemic.
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He went on: “I think people will see the Prime Minister and Matt Hancock were focused on dealing with the pandemic… Matt accepted what he did was wrong and apologised for that, and I think credit to Matt that he’s looked at it again, on reflection, and taken the view that his position was distracting from that wider piece of work.”
Images and video showed Mr Hancock in an embrace with aide and former uni pal Gina Coladangelo last month.
Conservative MPs told of how their inboxes had filled with complaints similar to those they received during Dominic Cummings's infamous trip to Barnard Castle during a national lockdown.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Hancock said: "The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis."
"I think credit to Matt", said Brandon Lewis
(Image: Sky News)
He said: "We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance.
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."
The Mirror understands Mrs Coladangelo is also leaving her £15,000-a-year role as a non-executive director at the Department of Health and Social Care.
How the millionaire lobbyist got the job is shrouded in mystery. The government has said proper processes were followed, but not clarified if Mr Hancock was involved in the appointment or whether he declared their relationship.