Ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who had to resign last month due to an exposed love affair and breach of social distancing rules, may be far from the end of his troubles. The Mail on Sunday revealed that Hancock had asked people "call me the Minister for Hugs", just a few weeks before his career was hit by the media scandal.
Hancock made the awkward joke on 17 May, as he was preparing for an interview on the loosening of coronavirus restrictions - including permission for "cautious cuddles" in England.
"I was working on a show on which Matt Hancock was one of the guests. He was the only one of the eight people there who wasn't wearing a mask at any time..." a source told the Mail on Sunday. "There had just been some relaxation in the rules and, at one point, he jokingly told everyone to call him the Minister of Hugs. That really makes me cringe now".
© REUTERS / TOM NICHOLSONBritain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock smiles during a television interview as his aide Gina Coladangelo looks on, outside BBC's Broadcasting House in London
"She was always around Matt and in his meetings. Every time I saw her, she was well dressed. I thought, 'This is a woman who looks after herself'", the newspaper cited another source as saying.
The report also suggested that the minister's romantic interest, Gina Coladangelo, was at his side when Hancock threw a party with drinks at the Department of Health back in July 2019. This raises even more questions about how precisely Coladangelo received a £15,000-a-year role as a non-executive director last year, considering the fact that the couple claimed their special connection started not very long ago.
The Department of Health, however, declined to comment on the 2019 event, so it remains unclear if she was at the party, and if she was, whether she was there as a personal guest of the health secretary.
Since the eruption of the scandal, Hancock has not only left his position, but also his wife of 15 years Martha, while Gina Coladangelo left her millionaire husband Oliver Tress. The couple has reportedly moved in together, saying that the romance was not a fluke, but a serious decision.