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MORAG LINDSAY: Matt Hancock isn’t the only Tory taking us for a ride

Keeping their distance in public - Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo.
Keeping their distance in public - Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo.

So. Matt Hancock eh.

If I’d asked you last week to nominate the cabinet minister most likely to be outed as a secret love rat he wouldn’t have been high on your list, would he?

Remember that video of him standing awkwardly close to a woman outside a hospital, looking every inch the bus stop weirdo, that everyone had a good laugh about a couple of years ago?

Google ‘Matt Hancock creepy’ and prepare to cringe yourself inside out if you’ve forgotten.

You wouldn’t even have him down for a pity snog, would you?

And yet, there he is on the front page of Friday’s Sun.

Our beleaguered health secretary caught on leaked Whitehall CCTV, getting wired in to “close aide” Gina Coladangelo with all the finesse of a third year copping a feel in a corridor during the end-of-term disco.

It’s an unexpected turn of events certainly, but the writing has been on the wall for Matt Hancock for some time.

Perhaps the real mystery is whose clammy hands are all over the leak and why it took this long.

Front page news.

Dominic Cummings revealed Boris Johnson had branded the beleaguered Health Secretary “totally f***ing hopeless” over his handling of the pandemic in an excitable blog post last week.

Even the Queen has taken to calling him that “poor man”, according to a clip from a meeting with the Prime Minister that was released this week.

So it’s no shock that his opponents have seized on the opportunity to line up and demand his sacking.

Complaints piling up

Not for cheating on his wife and bringing shame on the office – this is 2021 after all – but because he failed to observe social distancing rules in his clinch with Ms Coladangelo
on May 6 – when indoor social gatherings and “face to face contact” were out of bounds in England.

“He was telling families not to hug loved ones while doing whatever he liked in the workplace,” said Lib Dem health spokeswoman Munira Wilson.

Well quite. But wouldn’t it be ironic if after everything that has unfolded at the Department of Health during his time at the helm – the PPE shortages, the Covid in care homes, the costly and largely useless Test and Trace system – it’s lunging in from less than two metres away for a bit of ill-advised slap and tickle that does for him?

Once the extra marital affair itself would have been enough of course.

Now the family party is led by a twice-divorced serial adulterer with an indeterminate number of children, it’s doubtful that will even touch the sides.

More troubling is the fact that Hancock personally appointed Gina Coladangelo – an old pal from Oxford and a millionaire mother-of-three to a taxpayer-funded role in his office.

Boris on shaky ground

Again, Boris Johnson’s own relationship with Jennifer Arcuri while he was Mayor of London – and the £126,000 of public money and access to foreign trade missions that fell in her lap – might present a problem if he finds himself in the tricky position of having to cast any first stones.

And so we learned at lunchtime on Friday that the PM has accepted Mr Hancock’s apology for breaching social distancing rules and “considers the matter closed”.

It’s perhaps the least surprising turn yet in the whole seedy business but it does make you wonder who is being taken for a ride.

If it’s scandal you’re after

Of course Matt Hancock is not the only Tory to be caught in the act this week.

We’ve had our own mini-scandal in Courier country with the unfolding drama of the Lady Whistledown Twitter account.

Named after a character in the Netflix bodices and bonking blockbuster Bridgerton, the anonymous account was set up in December last year and had been posting tweets comparing Nicola Sturgeon to Golem and joking about an SNP activist being bitten by a dog.

It appears to have amassed 115 followers before it was shut down and now Angus Conservative councillor Derek Wann has admitted he was the “brains” behind it.

Tory councillor Derek Wann has been unmasked as the man behind an anonymous troll account.

Embarrassingly Mr Wann, who represents the people of Arbroath East and Lunan, has campaigned against online bullying and was linked to the ‘Angus, think before you type’ initiative as the council’s children and learning convener.

He initially denied any involvement, but has since apologised for his “unacceptable” actions and said he is co-operating with an investigation by party bosses.

Now Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross is facing calls to sack him.

At the time of writing there has been no word on how Mr Ross intends to deal with what has been described as a serious test of his leadership.

Perhaps the party spin machine was occupied with higher matters

But wouldn’t it be a shocker if a local councillor caught running a silly Twitter account with a handful of followers is held to higher standards than a cabinet minister caught breaching his own government’s guidelines during the greatest public health crisis in living memory?