Matt Hancock's 41-hour bid to save career after affair photos released

Inside Matt Hancock’s 41-hour battle to save his career when photo of ‘a snog and heavy petting’ with aide Gina Coladangelo was made public: From shock at photo to resignation and – eventually – an apology to his wife, leaked WhatsApps reveal all

  • A close aide to Mr Hancock the leaked photos as ‘a snog and heavy petting’ 
  • The Health Secretary was furious and asked ‘How the f***’ the photos were taken
  • Mr Hancock phoned the Prime Minister before his wife to tell them of the affair
  • Read more: Matt Hancock discussed how Covid could ‘propel’ his career

Matt Hancock embarked on a 41-hour scramble to save his career after pictures emerged of ‘a snog and heavy petting’ with Gina Coladangelo in the Department of Health, leaked messages reveal.

CCTV images of the former Health Secretary and his now-girlfriend in an intimate embrace were published in June 2021, prompting a panicked response – from shock at the leak, to brainstorming how to ride out the storm, to informing the Prime Minister and, afterwards, his wife.

A flurry of frantic WhatsApp messages sent over just two days show Mr Hancock and his team’s changing stance on what to tell the public, from saying that no Covid rules were broken to apologising for breaking guidance and then resigning.

It comes after the ghostwriter of Mr Hancock’s diaries leaked more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages after she had completed working on the book, breaking an NDA in the process.

As the news of his affair broke, Mr Hancock asked the Department of Health’s media advisor Damon Poole ‘how bad’ the pictures were, to which Mr Poole said: ‘It’s a snog and heavy petting.’

Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo’s affair was revealed in The Sun in June 2021 after pictures of the couple kissing were handed to journalists

Mr Hancock sent a series of messages to his top team and girlfriend in an effort to save his career – in which his media advisor described the photos as ‘a snog and heavy petting’

The then Health Secretary replied: ‘How the f*** did anyone photograph that?’ 

The messages, which were revealed last night by The Telegraph, showed Mr Hancock’s affair started on May 4, and the CCTV images were from two days later.

At the time, indoor gatherings of two or more people were banned and guidance instructed people to remain at least one metre apart from one another.

After the Health Secretary was informed of the imminent publication on June 24, Mr Poole asked Mr Hancock: ‘Did you snog her in the department’, before the then-health secretary replied: ‘Office and balcony.’

He later added: ‘BTW (By the way) this is a first offence and genuine.’ 

The pair began their affair while both working in the Department of Health, where Ms Coladangelo was employed as a Non-Executive Director.

Mr Hancock reportedly phoned Boris Johnson and informed him of the affair before he went home to tell his wife and children. 

Other messages were then sent in a group chat called ‘Crisis Management’ with him, Ms Coladangelo and media advisor Damon Poole. 

After the Sun had published the story, Mr Poole described whoever provided the paper with the images as a ‘c***’.

Five hours later, at 6.15am, the pair were discussing then-Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ imminent media round. 

Matt Hancock speaks at a coronavirus briefing in Downing Street on April 28, 2021 – just six days before he would begin his affair

Gina Coladangelo was a Non-Executive Director at the Department of Health and Social Care at the time the affair began

Read more: ‘Arrested at the airport? BRILLIANT!’ How Matt Hancock and Priti Patel shared stories of heavy-handed police covid crackdowns with childlike excitement on WhatsApp

‘What do you want Shapps to say?’, Mr Poole asked Mr Hancock. 

Discussions continued throughout the day as to the line they would take on the affair. 

In one WhatsApp message, Mr Hancock tells his media advisor: ‘I could apologise for the whole thing – I have after all cheated on my wife.’

In a later exchange, he says: ‘I don’t think I can acknowledge that I broke the rules. I think I just went against the clinical advice not the rules.’

At one point he responded: ‘WE DIDN’T BREAK THE F***ING LAW OK’.

By 6pm that night, June 25, media specialist Mr Poole messaged the couple with a new allegation – that they had been spotted kissing in the office as recently as one week previously – six weeks after the original photographs were taken.

Mr Poole said: ‘Ignoring this… but is this true?’

Ms Coladangelo replied: ‘FFS. Yes.’

When asked for the day and time, Mr Hancock said: ‘It wasn’t exactly a one off.’ 


An hour later Ms Coladangelo had decided to resign from her position, the Telegraph reports, and asked her partner and Mr Poole whether she should go that evening.

Mr Hancock replied: ‘No. Definitely not.

‘It adds pressure on me to go.’ 

By 10pm, it was revealed that video of the two kissing in the office had been obtained by The Sun.

‘OMFG’, Ms Coladangelo said, when she saw the footage.

Mr Hancock said: ‘Crikey. Not sure there’s much news value in that and I can’t say it’s very enjoyable viewing.’

The former Health Secretary split from his wife as the news of the affair broke, leaving his family home and his children to stay elsewhere.

He has since been pictured on many occasions with his girlfriend, most prominently on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here when Ms Coladangelo flew to Australia to meet him as he came out of the jungle.

Matt Hancock finished the series in third place and was greeted by girlfriend Gina Coladangelo as he exited the jungle

The couple have since been pictured publicly on many occasions, including at the Jingle Bell Ball in December last year 

The former health secretary told his boss Boris Johnson about the affair before his wife, The Telegraph reports

The messages are some of the latest to be published by the Telegraph after journalist Isabel Oakeshott (pictured) leaked more than 100,000 WhatsApps to the paper

Texts with his special advisor Allan Nixon also show the pair desperately trying to draw up a list of MPs who have given ‘warm words’ and who might be prepared to Tweet in Mr Hancock’s defence.

The names mentioned by Mr Hancock include Priti Patel, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove.

The messages also revealed that he asked his former mentor and ex-chancellor George Osborne for advice, as he prepared to resign.  

This is the latest revelation from the set of 100,000 text and WhatsApp messages leaked to the Daily Telegraph by former journalist Isabel Oakeshott who was the ghostwriter of Mr Hancock’s book.

In Pandemic Diaires, published last year, Mr Hancock said that he resigned as health secretary after colleagues failed to defend him publicly.

By his own account, he said that Boris Johnson had assured him he could carry on even though he and Ms Coladangelo had been pictured kissing in his office in breach of his own social-distancing guidelines.

But after the story broke, Mr Hancock said he found himself ‘increasingly isolated’ politically and was left with no choice but to quit.

It comes after it was also revealed on Friday Mr Hancock mocked then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s ‘Eat Out To Help Out Scheme’ and allegedly made sure the fact the scheme was leading to rising Covid-19 cases was kept out of the media.

Mr Hancock dubbed the scheme, which was designed to help small businesses and keep the UK economy moving, the ‘eat out to help the virus get about’.

In separate messages to Simon Case, who was Permanent Secretary at Downing Street at the time, the Health Secretary said the scheme was ‘causing problems in our intervention areas’.

He added: ‘I’ve kept it out of the news but it’s serious. So please please let’s not allow the economic success of the scheme to lead to its extension.’

Since the first messages were made public, Mr Hancock has maintained a low profile, although he did meet with fellow MP Lucy Frazer on Friday about heavy traffic on Junction 37 of the A14. 

Representatives for Mr Hancock have been contacted for comment. 

Police hit back at Matt Hancock: Ex-health secretary caused ‘huge resentment’ among officers, says ex-chief constable

By David Churchill, Bill Bowkett and Rory Tingle 

Police won’t be surprised at the tone of Matt Hancock’s leaked messages, in which he discussed the need to ‘get heavy’ with officers over enforcing lockdown rules, a former chief constable said today.  

WhatsApp messages revealed yesterday also disclose how the ex-health secretary gave officers ‘their marching orders’ to enforce the Covid restrictions.

Sir Peter Fahy, former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, said the approach taken by Mr Hancock and other ministers during the pandemic caused ‘huge resentment’ within the ranks. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think lots of people in the police service won’t be surprised at the tone of these remarks. There was this constant confusion between what was legislation and what was guidance. Often it seemed ministers themselves didn’t understand the impact of the legislation.’

It caused ‘huge resentment within policing’ when cases of officers ‘trying to do their best’ were highlighted and misunderstood, he said.

The Government must ‘get heavy with the police’ to make them crack down on lockdown rule-breakers, Matt Hancock said during the pandemic

Leaked private WhatsApp messages show Matt Hancock telling Simon Case, the then permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, about the need to ‘get heavy’ with the police 

Mr Hancock made the comment about giving officers ‘their marching orders’ days before No 10 staff held an illicit party at Downing Street. 

The texts given to The Daily Telegraph also reveal that senior officers were hauled into No 10 to be told they should be stricter with the public.

Matt Hancock’s team wanted to LOCK UP Nigel Farage after he tweeted a video of himself at a pub when he should have been quarantining 

This is despite ministers claiming at the time that the police were operationally independent of the Government.

On August 28, 2020, Simon Case, then permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, asked Mr Hancock: ‘Who is actually delivering enforcement?’

Mr Hancock replied: ‘I think we are going to have to get heavy with the police.’

After a meeting on January 10, 2021, one week after England entered its third national lockdown, Mr Hancock texted about how ‘the plod got their marching orders’.

The meeting was attended by then prime minister Boris Johnson, then home secretary Priti Patel and Mr Case, who is now the Cabinet Secretary.

On January 14, a gathering was held in No 10 to mark the departure of two private secretaries. The Metropolitan Police later said this event breached the rules in place at the time.

It also emerged that Mr Johnson feared he had ‘blinked too soon’ by plunging Britain into a second lockdown during the pandemic.

He made the observation in private messages after being told that modelling he had been shown predicting death numbers was ‘very wrong’.

Derbyshire Police were among the forces who raised eyebrows for their zealous enforcement of lockdown rules, including sharing drone footage of people walking their dogs in the Peak District in 2020 

Sir Peter Fahy, the former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, said the approach taken by Mr Hancock and other ministers during the pandemic caused ‘huge resentment’

The messages, leaked by Isabel Oakeshott, who was a ghost-writer on Mr Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries, show he expressed the fear on November 1, 2020, a day after he announced another national lockdown would come into force a few days later.

Despite his fears, the lockdown went ahead and lasted for a month.

The messages raise fresh questions about whether ministers were making decisions about curbing people’s freedoms based on the science, as they always insisted.

It also raises the prospect that people were forced to abide by draconian restrictions for more time than was necessary.

On November 1, Mr Johnson said he had held an online conference call with scientists Dr Raghib Ali and Dr Carl Heneghan.

Jessica Allen and her friend Eliza Moore were given £200 fines by police in January 2021 after strolling with coffees by Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire. The fines were later dropped 

He told those in the messaging group that Dr Heneghan had said ‘the death modelling you have been shown is already very wrong’ because it was out of date due to having been drawn up three weeks before.

The previous day, Mr Johnson had announced an impending national lockdown, justifying the decision using public modelling that 4,000 people could die daily without action. 

But this data projected what could happen in the event of no restrictions being ordered.

The then PM shared a link in the exchanges suggesting the modelling was out by a factor of four, with a more recent Cambridge study suggesting 1,000 deaths a day would occur.

Referring to the idea that ministers could be criticised for announcing a lockdown too early, Mr Johnson wrote: ‘The attack is going to be that we blinked too soon.’ 

Police speak to drivers at Tynemouth beach after it was closed during lockdown in March 2020 

Previous messages reveal how Mr Johnson was told that lifting curbs earlier than planned was not in line with what the public wanted.

A message he sent to Mr Hancock on June 6, 2020, said he was ‘thinking hard about the 15th June’.

On June 15, ministers were planning on opening non-essential retail premises.

But Mr Johnson’s message suggested he wanted to go further and remove more restrictions. 

But he was warned by senior media advisers Lee Cain and James Slack not to do so.

Mr Johnson said they ‘still think the whole package will be too far ahead of public opinion’.

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