Matt Hancock resigns: Dominic Cummings issues damning assessment of new health secretary – as PM criticised for not sacking Hancock

Matt Hancock has resigned as health secretary – but opposition politicians are criticising the prime minister for not sacking him earlier.

Boris Johnson said on Friday that he had accepted Mr Hancock‘s apology for breaking social distancing rules, and considered the matter closed.

But after Mr Hancock resigned on Saturday, Mr Johnson was criticised for not sacking him when reports of his failings emerged.

The departure of Mr Hancock and subsequent hiring of Sajid Javid as his replacement has tempted the PM’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings back on to Twitter, where he has in recent weeks regularly issued damning assessments of the government’s response to the pandemic.

He suggested that Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie Symonds had played a role in the decision to hire Mr Javid as the new health secretary. Mr Javid resigned as chancellor in February 2020 – the culmination of weeks of reported tensions between him and Mr Cummings, who was said to have been key to the subsequent appointment of Rishi Sunak.

Mr Cummings tweeted: “So Carrie appoints Saj! NB If I hadn’t tricked PM into firing Saj, we’d have had a HMT with useless SoS/spads, no furlough scheme, total chaos instead of JOINT 10/11 team which was a big success.

“Saj = bog standard = chasing headlines + failing = awful for NHS. Need #RegimeChange.”

Earlier, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer led his party in giving his reaction to Mr Hancock’s departure.

He wrote on Twitter: “Matt Hancock is right to resign. But Boris Johnson should have sacked him.”

Labour chair Anneliese Dodds wrote on Twitter: “A Health Secretary who behaved like rules didn’t apply to him.

“A prime minister who didn’t have the guts to remove him.

“A government riddled with sleaze. Now Matt Hancock has gone, the prime minister must clean up this crony government.”

Mr Hancock resigned after leaked CCTV showed him kissing aide and former lobbyist Gina Coladangelo in his departmental office.

The images, published by The Sun, were from 6 May – more than a week before the easing of social distancing rules around close contact indoors for people from separate households.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “It is right that Matt Hancock has resigned. But why didn’t Boris Johnson have the guts to sack him and why did he say the matter was closed?

“Boris Johnson has demonstrated that he has none of the leadership qualities required of a prime minister.

“Hancock’s replacement cannot carry on business as usual. On Hancock’s watch waiting times soared, care homes were left exposed to COVID and NHS staff were badly let down.

“Our NHS deserves much better.”

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen told Sky News: “I think Matt’s taken exactly the right decision.

“It’s OK having the support and confidence of the prime minister but in a pandemic you’ve also got to have the support and confidence of the public.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey tweeted: “Matt Hancock’s legacy as health secretary will be one of cronyism and failure.

“And the fact that Boris Johnson thought Hancock could just carry on regardless brings the prime minister’s judgement into question once again.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford tweeted: “Massive failure of leadership by Boris Johnson.

“Hancock should have been sacked.

“A fish rots from its head – so does this UK Government.

“In Scotland of course we will face a choice on our future. We can say goodbye to the chaos and failure of UK leadership and take a step forward.”

Earlier on Saturday, Labour and the Liberal Democrats had demanded Mr Hancock’s removal, and some Conservative MPs had also called for the health secretary to go.

Veteran Tory Sir Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch, said his constituents were “seething” and North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker 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”.

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