HEALTH Secretary Matt Hancock’s naked ambition was a feature of the Covid crisis.
The amount of attention he received, and created for himself, was unprecedented.
He became infected by hubris, always desperately seeking publicity and a camera.
One very senior civil servant commented: ‘It felt like every decision Hancock made during Covid was based on whether it would get him on the news or make him look like a hero. To Matt, every decision was about how did it benefit Matt?’ Ouch.
Boris told me: ‘I liked Matt. I think he tried; he worked really hard. And we had to make some pretty bloody appalling decisions.’
The Health Secretary, 42, pictured with millionaire lobbyist Gina Coladangelo
The duo, both married to other people, had CCTV footage of them kissing leaked to the press in June 2021
Gina Coladangelo, 43, walks towards married Mr Hancock, who backs up against the closed door as the pair become immersed in a heated embrace
But he must have offended someone – and they were out to get him. After footage of him kissing Gina Coladangelo in his office was given to the Sun newspaper, he was forced to resign.
Gina’s was a well-known face. She had attended numerous meetings in No 10 with Matt and been with him at a G7 health meeting in Oxford, where they undoubtedly shared the same room. I know this because, at the time, I asked someone who was there: ‘Are they sleeping together? Because, if so, that doesn’t look good for the G7.’
He deflected: ‘I asked, I was worried too. Matt has promised me they aren’t.’ He sounded far from convincing.
If I knew, Matt’s enemies definitely knew, too.
And we now know the security camera in Matt’s office that filmed him had been tampered with. My office in the Department of Health was directly opposite his and I had a camera on my ceiling, too. Both cameras faced outwards, looking towards the balconies considered to be a security weak spot.
The day after the story broke, I checked the camera in my office; it was still directly facing the balcony. Someone had rotated Matt’s inwards.
An inquiry found that the camera had been turned to face the door because it gave access to the roof. Only the door it was facing didn’t have access to the roof: that was on the wall opposite to the one the camera was facing. It had been switched to catch him in flagrante.
Recently, Matt had been at the front of the queue when Rishi had arrived at 10 Downing Street, about to step foot over the threshold as the new Prime Minister.
Matt was standing in line as he walked down shaking everyone by the hand and, rudely, Rishi blanked him and purposefully walked past. That had been painful to watch.
Someone had set Matt up. Steered him in front of the camera to be humiliated on live TV to millions.
Matt has been described as many things. A Duracell bunny. An over-enthusiastic puppy dog. Industrious, ambitious, a narcissist. Whatever anyone thought of him, he worked the longest hours and he did so in his ruthlessly upbeat and optimistic way, with never a word of complaint.
Matt didn’t get everything right, but he didn’t deserve such childish rudeness from Rishi.
Matt’s career had ended in scandal, with that cringeworthy security footage of him kissing Gina
He didn’t get everything right, but he didn’t deserve such childish rudeness from Rishi.
Not long afterwards, I went to talk to Boris. He hadn’t seen Rishi blank Matt and, as he poured the coffee, I told him what had happened.
‘That’s a shame,’ he said, ‘but maybe it’s not such a surprise. They hated Matt. Always briefing against him.’
‘Who?’ I asked.
‘Lee Cain, [Dominic] Cummings – I could never understand why. You know what my impression of Matt was: he had this incredible pachyderm quality. He took so many bullets, and they just flattened on his hide. Nothing stopped him.
‘He was like a rhino, and look, I always liked him. He always wanted to be Chancellor, and maybe that was the origin of the briefings. Yes, it was always very clear, Matt’s ambition was to be Chancellor; he couldn’t hide it and they didn’t like that.’
I was reminded of the secret dirty dossiers sent to journalists which had been circulated about various Ministers who became rising stars. Matt’s career had ended in scandal, with that cringeworthy security footage of him kissing Gina. Whatever Matt thought of himself, he was never going to be Chancellor after that.