Fury as Boris Johnson says Hancock scandal is a ‘Westminster bubble’ issue

30 June 2021, 12:33 | Updated: 30 June 2021, 12:47

"It is one rule for them and another rule for everybody else?”

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson sparked an angry backlash today at PMQs when he made efforts to dismiss the scandal involving former health secretary Matt Hancock as a 'Westminster Bubble' issue.

The prime minister was accused of a 'tone deaf' response after Sir Keir Starmer highlighted to a pointedly silent House of Commons the case of Oliver Bibby, 27, who died of leukaemia while unable to see his family the day before the pictures of Mr Hancock emerged.

The PM initially backed Mr Hancock despite him breaching social distancing while kissing a colleague. Mr Johnson has subsequently tried to say he sacked him.

Sir Keir gave Ollie's example to highlight the sacrifices the nation has made during Covid. Oliver asked repeatedly to see his family but could only see one person, the Labour leader said.

Oliver, from South Benfleet in Essex, died of leukaemia in hospital on 5 May, a day before Matt Hancock was filmed kissing Gina Coladangelo in his Whitehall Office.

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One person posted online: "Westminster bubble meant my husband couldn't see his sons for much of his last year, didn't see his brother or sister. Only saw my mum at my husband's funeral where I had to tell people they were not invited. My son sat on his own. Heartless crass comments."

Another wrote: "What sort of response is ‘Westminster Bubble’ to the death of this young man Olly mentioned by Starmer during PMQs? Despicable of PM to just go on about vaccinations. Johnson is disgusting!"

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Mr Johnson went on to express sympathy with Oliver's case and with everyone who has "endured" the lockdown, adding "that is why we had a change of Health Secretary the day after the story appeared". 

Sir Keir Starmer responded: "This is not a Westminster bubble story" and asked the PM to withdraw the comment.

"It is the wrong response to Ollie's case", he said. Sir Keir added that he spoke to Ollie's mother this morning and "she told me for and her family, this case isn't closed."

Mr Johnson initially said the matter was 'closed' when the story emerged on Friday of Mr Hancock's kiss with a senior colleague. Mr Hancock quit as Health Secretary one day later and was replaced by Sajid Javid.

Mr Hancock will stay in politics as a backbencher but calls are growing for him to stand down altogether.

Tory councillor Ian Houlder told the Evening Standard he was “disgusted” by Mr Hancock’s behaviour and is calling for him to be deselected. He said: "As far as I’m concerned he’s politically finished."