Matt Hancock dragged into Downing Street garden 'cheese and wine' row

2 January 2022, 12:05 | Updated: 5 January 2022, 21:49

Matt Hancock with Gina Coladangelo on 1 May, 2020, before the reported gathering in the garden.
Matt Hancock with Gina Coladangelo on 1 May, 2020, before the reported gathering in the garden. Picture: Getty

By James Morris

Matt Hancock has now been dragged into the Downing Street “cheese and wine” garden row.

A picture of the event, first obtained by The Guardian last month, was reportedly taken on 15 May, 2020: during the first national Covid lockdown and when social mixing between different households was limited to two people.

It showed Boris Johnson with up to 17 people in the Downing Street garden.

Now the Mail on Sunday has reported the then-health secretary Mr Hancock and his lover Gina Coladangelo are believed to be two of those who are stood in a group of eight people.

Earlier that evening, Mr Hancock had led a Downing Street press conference in which he said people could only meet one other person while outdoors.

(The video above is from 20 December)

Downing Street had previously characterised the event as a staff meeting, saying Mr Johnson met “briefly with the then health and care secretary and his team in the garden following a press conference”.

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said: "It's impossible to say with any certainty who the blurred figures in the photo are.

"What we can confirm is that Ms Coladangelo was an adviser to the Health Secretary at the time, and part of the team that accompanied Mr Hancock to the Downing Street Press Conference that day.

"After the press conference finished at 5.53pm, Mr Hancock's team went to the Downing Street Garden to debrief the Prime Minister. Ms Coladangelo left with Mr Hancock and other members of his team at 6.32pm.

"There is no suggestion Ms Coladangelo or Mr Hancock did anything wrong, but both will obviously gladly help with any investigation. Ms Coladangelo - like the rest of Mr Hancock's team - was doing her job, helping vital public health communications in the teeth of a global pandemic."

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The photo continues to cause issues for Mr Johnson, who was pictured at a table in the garden with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard with wife Carrie and two other people who do not appear to be two metres away, which was the social distancing guidance at the time.

It is one of a series of reported gatherings or parties in government buildings which were held while the wider country was subject to Covid restrictions.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray is carrying out a probe into whether Covid restrictions were broken at these events, with Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo expected to be questioned.