Matt Hancock's affair and rule breach hurt us in by-election, says Tory chair

Matt Hancock's breach of Covid rules contributed to the Tories by-election defeat in Batley and Spen, Amanda Milling MP has said.

Matt Hancock resigned as Health Secretary after the images emerged. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Matt Hancock resigned as Health Secretary after the images emerged. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The Conservative Party Chair said the former Health Secretary's behaviour was "something that came up on the doorstep" ahead of the election, which saw Labour edge out the Tories by just 323 votes.

But she insisted the Conservatives had managed a "tremendous result" by coming so close to winning in a constituency that Labour has held since 1997.

Mr Hancock resigned as Health Secretary last weekend after footage emerged of him breaking social distancing rules by kissing his aide Gina Coladangelo in his office.

Asked if the scandal had impacted on the result, Cannock Chase MP Ms Milling told Sky News: "It was something that came up on the doorstep, I have to be honest about that."

Pictures were published of Health Secretary Matt Hancock kissing adviser Gina Coladangelo. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

She added: "There was a whole host of different issues that came up. But we also need to remember that governing parties don't gain by-elections.

"And, actually, taking it to such a small number of votes in itself was a tremendous result - quite extraordinary I would say."

Since taking Hartlepool from Labour in a by-election in May, the Conservatives have now been defeated in successive by-elections after losing Chesham and Amersham to the Lib Dems.

Ms Milling said: "Each of these by-elections is a unique challenge, it was really disappointing to lose Chesham and Amersham.

Conservative Party Chair and Cannock Chase MP Amanda Milling

"We fought a really hard fight. But let's be really clear about this, this [Batley and Spen] was not a great win for the Labour Party.

"We really took the fight to them. They only won by a matter of just over 300 votes."

She said Batley and Spen "was always going to be a really tough battle for us" and added: "Governing parties don't tend to win by-elections. And we have to be clear on this, this is a Labour hold, not a Labour gain, not a win."

Thursday's by-election saw Labour's Kim Leadbeater, sister of murdered former MP Jo Cox, defeat Tory Ryan Stephenson, with George Galloway of the Workers Party in third.

Labour has called for an investigation into whether Mr Hancock broke the law during his relationship with his aide.

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