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5 people ‘spineless’ Boris Johnson couldn’t sack – from Covid to bullying claims

Matt Hancock is out on his ear after he was caught snogging an aide in breach of Covid rules.

The Health Secretary has resigned and is understood to be leaving his wife after he was pictured on CCTV canoodling with millionaire lobbyist Gina Coladangelo.

Because he actually resigned, this case makes Mr Hancock stand out from others who’ve faced furious calls to quit – from Dominic Cummings to Priti Patel.

But this case does have something in common with the others – Boris Johnson refused to sack him.

The Prime Minister declared the matter “closed” on Friday lunchtime and did not force Mr Hancock to quit when they reportedly met at his residence Chequers yesterday.

A Labour spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister recently described him as ‘useless’ – the fact that even now he still can’t sack him shows how spineless he is.”

So who has Boris Johnson been inexplicably unable to get rid of? Here’s a guide…

Dominic Cummings

The PM’s closest aide outraged the nation in May 2020 when the Mirror revealed he broke Covid isolation rules by making a 250-mile trip to Durham.

Yet Downing Street refused to even issue an on-the-record comment until 12 hours after our revelations were published – and Boris Johnson steadfastly stood by Mr Cummings.

No10 said the aide “believes he behaved reasonably and legally” and Boris Johnson “regards this issue as closed” – even as dozens of Tories complained and Douglas Ross, then a Minister in the Scotland Office, resigned in protest.

Boris Johnson frittered away political capital defending Dominic Cummings

Boris Johnson is said to have dismissed concerns by saying privately: “It’s not like he was visiting a lover.” He even allowed his aide to give an extraordinary press conference in the Downing Street rose garden on Bank Holiday Monday in which he justified his actions and refused to apologise.

Surveys later suggested Mr Cummings’ actions had undermined confidence in lockdown rules.

Having expended vast sums of political capital keeping Mr Cummings, Boris Johnson then lost him anyway in a bitter factional fight between No10 clans in November 2020.

Matt Hancock

The Health Secretary has now resigned after he disgraced himself by breaching his own Covid rules, snogging an aide against his office door.

Mr Hancock’s embrace with Gina Coladangelo came while indoor gatherings between bubbles were illegal, and after he repeatedly urged the public to stick to the rules.

You might have thought Boris Johnson would have learned the lesson of Dominic Cummings – and thrown out anyone whose hypocrisy could destroy faith in the system.

But just like with Mr Cummings, Downing Street closed ranks on Friday and defended Mr Hancock, insisting the matter was “closed” 12 hours after news of the kiss broke.

Mr Hancock only chose to resign of his own accord after the drumbeat from Tory MPs for him to go grew ever louder. In his reply, Boris Johnson told the Health Secretary: “You should leave office very proud of what you have achieved.”

Matt Hancock with Gina Coladangelo
Matt Hancock with Gina Coladangelo

Priti Patel

Chaos erupted in November after an official report found Priti Patel “shouted and swore” at staff in behaviour “that can be described as bullying” – but Boris Johnson refused to sack her.

The Home Secretary apologised after a long-awaited Cabinet Office inquiry found she broke the Ministerial Code of ethics.

Yet Boris Johnson sensationally overruled the inquiry and decided he didn’t believe Ms Patel broke the Ministerial Code.

That meant she kept her job despite the finding of bullying. And he ordered Tory MPs to rally round her, telling a WhatsApp group: “Time to form a square around the prittster”.

The civil servant who led the inquiry, Sir Alex Allan, resigned instantly after the PM’s shock decision, which came at the end of Anti-Bullying Week. Ms Patel denied bullying.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said at the time: “If I were Prime Minister, the Home Secretary would have been removed from her job. It is hard to imagine another workplace in the UK where this behaviour would be condoned by those at the top.”

Priti Patel was accused of behaviour that amounted to bullying in an official report
Priti Patel was accused of behaviour that amounted to bullying in an official report

Robert Jenrick

Robert Jenrick faced major questions over his decision to approve a billionaire Tory donor’s £1bn housing development against the advice of a planning inspector.

The Housing Secretary gave Westferry Printworks, planned by Richard Desmond, the green light on January 14 – hours before a council levy kicked in that would have cost the developer around £40m.

It later emerged Mr Desmond showed the minister a video of the scheme on his phone at a Tory fundraising dinner in November 2019, and texted him asking him to approve it before the deadline.

Robert Jenrick denied there was any actual bias in his decision-making
Robert Jenrick denied there was any actual bias in his decision-making

In an e-mail dated January 9, 2020, a government official said Mr Jenrick was “insistent that decision issued this week ie tomorrow – as next week the viability of the scheme is impacted” by the levy.

Mr Desmond is not accused of wrongdoing, while Mr Jenrick has insisted that while there could have been an appearance of bias, there was no actual bias. But the minister cancelled his approval to avoid a perception of bias in favour of the scheme.

And Lib Dem leader Ed Davey called on Boris Johnson to “sack Robert Jenrick”.

Gavin Williamson

Labour demanded Gavin Williamson resign in January after months of fiascos in England’s schools.

The mood tipped after an outcry about measly “hampers” handed out to thousands of parents in lieu of free school meals during lockdown.

The firm Chartwells apologised and admitted some of its food parcels were not up to scratch. But Labour later pointed out similarities between the parcels shared widely on social media and the government’s own guidance.

It was one of a number of controversies to befall Mr Williamson as Education Secretary.

Gavin Williamson has had a number of unfortunate incidents befall him as Education Secretary
Gavin Williamson has had a number of unfortunate incidents befall him as Education Secretary

Weeks earlier he threatened legal action to stop Greenwich Council in London closing its schools a few days early for Christmas.

Yet many schools were then kept shut by the government anyway, while other primaries opened for one day in January only to be plunged into a national lockdown.

Meanwhile, who could forget events in August 2020 when thousands of A-level pupils missed out on uni offers due to a marking algorithm.

After days of heartache, Mr Williamson engineered a screeching U-turn and said pupils could get teacher-assessed grades after all.

He said he’d only realised problems with the algorithm with days to spare. Yet the Commons Education Committee had warned about the algorithm on July 10 – saying it risked “inaccuracy and bias against young people from disadvantaged backgrounds”.


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