Matt Hancock has admitted he had “blown up every part” of his life when he resigned from the cabinet after CCTV footage showed him breaching social distancing rules with an aide in his Whitehall office.
The former health secretary also defended his decision not to resign immediately after images — showing him embracing and kissing his aide, Gina Coladangelo — emerged in June, saying he first concentrated on his “personal life”.
At the time, Mr Hancock, who quit his post more than 24 hours after the CCTV images were published by The Sun newspaper, had repeatedly urged the public not to hug those they did not share a household with to control the spread of Covid-19.
Asked on ITV’s Peston programme why he didn’t “resign on the spot”, the former cabinet minister said “the first thing I had to, that I focused on was my personal life”.
“When I focused on my professional responsibilities, I decided that I had to resign and that’s what I did,” he insisted.
Quizzed again, the former cabinet minister said: “Well, I had, I’d blown up every part of my life and I concentrated on my personal life as you can probably imagine”.
Mr Hancock, however, declined to elaborate on “conversations” over the resignation with Boris Johnson, who faced criticism at the time for the decision to stand by the under fire health secretary when demands were made for his resignation.
He added: “Well, I made the decision, it was clearly the right decision and I just say sorry again for the failure of, I let a lot of people down and sorry to the people who I hurt.”
The Conservative MP — a key face the government’s response to the initial waves of the Covid pandemic — claimed he was “in no hurry” to get back into government.
“I actually think that being on the backbenches is perfectly, I’m enjoying it but also it’s a very important job and I think contributions from people who’ve been there in the heat of the battle where Mark [Harper] as chief whip or Theresa May, the contributions she makes as former prime minister, and if I can make that sort of contribution in the House of Commons then I’ll enjoy doing it,” he said.
As concerns grow over the omicron variant, the former health secretary also urged people to “test the hell out of ourselves” to “keep things open” over the Christmas period, as he stressed it was “really important” rapid lateral flow remain free at the point of order.
Questioned on whether Jenny Harries, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief, was right to warn against unnecessary social interactions, Mr Hancock said: “Saying things like we may need to go further on working from home is perfectly reasonable, but I don’t think we’re there yet.”
He added: “What I tell Christmas, we should test the hell out of ourselves. Right the best way to keep yourself safe if you’re seeing people knowing I was coming to see you I took a test this morning.
“We should test the hell out of ourselves and that is the way, the best way to just be really cautious and careful and just get those tests. They’re available free and take them and that will help to keep things open.”