West Suffolk Conservative Association stands by disgraced Matt Hancock despite calls from some members for him to resign as MP following affair with Whitehall aide Gina Coladangelo
A Conservative association is standing by disgraced Matt Hancock despite calls from some members for him to now resign as an MP.
West Suffolk Conservative Association said in a statement that it accepted Mr Hancock's 'heartfelt apology' and 'looked forward to working with him again."
The statement said: "We wish to express our support for Matt, who has served our constituency tirelessly over the past 11 years.
"Matt has given us a heartfelt apology for recent events, has faced up to the mistakes he has made on both a human and a professional level and expressed sincere contrition.
"We want to thank Matt for the extraordinary job he has done as Health Secretary leading the country through the pandemic and overseeing the roll out of the world's best vaccination programme, and look forward to working with him as he continues to represent his constituents in Parliament.”
The association's comments come after Hancock, 42, resigned last Saturday as Health Secretary, after the Sun newspaper published pictures of him in an intimate embrace with his Whitehall aide Gina Coladangelo, 43, whom he hired for the role using taxpayers’ money.
Mr Hancock apologised for breaching Covid rules, later handing in his resignation to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying: "We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance."
The Conservative Association, a key local influence on Conservative Party headquarters, said it was issuing the statement after taking 'soundings' from members.
But some members feel they are not being heard claiming decisions are made ' by executive members only'.
Tom Kerby, former deputy mayor of Newmarket and a member of the association, has called for a vote on Hancock’s future.
He said: “I have requested that all members be asked a simple yes, or no question: Would you support a vote of no confidence, and vote to deselect Matt Hancock MP from the West Suffolk Constituency.
"I have asked for this to be conducted either by email or by calling an extraordinary meeting.
“Personally, I would deselect him as I don’t think he is now fit to be be our MP after what has gone on.
"As far as I am concerned he may have been a good MP – but his behaviour is just not acceptable, and I have lost all faith in him.
His comments were echoed by West Suffolk Councillor for Barrow, Ian Houlder, also a West Suffolk Conservative Association member.
He said: "I want to see the association start the process of deselection, or to ask him to resign, which would be the most honourable course of action.
"There are three elements to this, the sordid affair, his family and what he has done for the country.
"I don't want the sympathy vote coming in because of his family. It is what he as an MP, a minister, has done for his constituents and the country.
Behind his back, or rather I think he missed it, people were dying like flies in care homes.
"Every day he was telling us what to do; lecturing all of us, imploring us, making rules, having lockdowns, difficult rules that we have all followed.
"We go on with it; we wore our masks in Tescos , we limited our journeys, but then we open the newspaper to discover he had been totally ignoring his own instructions, instructions he has been so vehement about for the rest of us - but he couldn't give a monkey's.
"He has trashed his own character showing no probity or honour. His apology came across as pathetic and his letter to Boris Johnson, was about him, not about the country.
"There will be voices saying, isn't he is wonderful, he has done so much for the constituency. I'd like to know what.
"The other side of the story is that he has appointed his paramour , his 'bit of stuff', doesn't matter what you want to call her, on the side, out of our money, to have a good old jolly.
"He has lots of friends in the West Suffolk Conservative Association and if the executive come down in favour of him, the wider membership doesn't get a vote because in the constitution, they have been voted in to make the decision.
"His character and behaviour, frankly, is just beyond the pale, he has no integrity and very little probity. An honourable member of parliament? I don't think he knows what honourable means.
The party might not like the fuss and let it all die down, through masterly inactivity. Boris Johnson is an expert in masterly inactivity.
"Our views in the association will just be pushed into the long grass.
"I'm happy to put my views forward but other people supporting him don't say who they are, perhaps because they might be piled into by members of the public who they represent."
The calls from within the association also follow accusations from former government chief advisor Dominic Cummings, that the health secretary was ‘hopeless.’
He said the former health secretary should have been fired on ‘between 15 and 20 occasions’.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Boris Johnson faced claims of trying to “sweep (the issue) under the carpet”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told MPs the incident which led to the downfall of Mr Hancock was part of a “pattern” in which Mr Johnson backed his colleagues despite questions over their conduct.
Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, has remained neutral stating the facts around Mr Hancock's resignation and simply that she is looking forward to working alongside new health secretary, Sajid Javid.
She said: “Since the start of the pandemic people have made incredible sacrifices to help tackle this terrible virus.
"Matt Hancock apologised for breaching social distancing guidance and resigned, rightly as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
During the pandemic he worked hard and led on a number of fundamental reforms.
"Sajid Javid is now the new Secretary of State.
"He immediately updated MPs in the House of Commons on the progress that is being made to fight pandemic and I look forward to working alongside him.”
Mr Hancock has been Secretary of State for Health and Social Care since 2018. He was previously Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for six months.
He has been the MP for West Suffolk since 2010.
Born in Cheshire – his family runs a software business – he studied at both Oxford and Cambridge, where he is said to have met Ms, Coladangelo.
Mr Hancock and Coladangelo, who are both married and now reported to be living together.
Independent West Suffolk Councillor for Haverhill East, John Burns said: “Matt Hancock was right to resign mainly because of the effect on his family.
Hopefully, this will give him more time to attend to constituency matters in Haverhill which have been sorely lacking since he was made a minister.
His views were echoed by the West Suffolk Labour Party.
A spokesman, said: “It is disgraceful that any minister should be asking the country to do one thing whilst doing the opposite.
"It is right, therefore, that Mr Hancock has done the Prime Minister’s job for him – and stepped down.
“West Suffolk constituents speak about rarely seeing Mr Hancock, they feel he is only interested in Newmarket horse racing and as such is rarely seen anywhere else in the constituency, unless it is an exercise to promote himself.”