IN the end it was inevitable.

Yesterday evening following a day of rising political pressure, including from Tory ranks, Matt Hancock finally accepted the fundamental reality that remaining in post would have been the height of hypocrisy and so announced his resignation.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, he said: “The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.

“I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need[to] be with my children at this time.”

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In a video posted on Twitter, England’s Health Secretary said he understood the “enormous sacrifices” people had made, noting: “Those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that’s why I’ve got to resign.”

The Prime Minister, who had insisted the matter was closed when everyone knew it wasn’t, thanked his colleague for his public service, telling him he “should leave office very proud of what you have achieved; not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before Covid-19 struck us”.

And he left the door open to a return to Cabinet, adding: “I…believe your contribution to public service is far from over.”

But there was little sympathy from political opponents as they took to social media.

Anneliese Dodds, the Labour Chair, tweeted: “A Health Secretary who behaved like rules didn’t apply to him. A Prime Minister who didn’t have the guts to remove him. A government riddled with sleaze. Now Matt Hancock has gone, the Prime Minister must clean up this crony government.”

Ian Blackford said: “Massive failure of leadership by @BorisJohnson Hancock should have been sacked. A fish rots from its head. So does this UK Government.

“In Scotland of course we will face a choice on our future. We can say goodbye to the chaos and failure of UK leadership and take a step forward.”

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, added: “Matt Hancock’s legacy as Health Secretary will be one of cronyism and failure. And the fact Boris Johnson thought Hancock could just carry on regardless brings the Prime Minister’s judgement into question once again.”

The problem in the end was if the beleaguered minister had stayed, he would not only have become a permanent symbol of Government hypocrisy but worse, he would have become a figure of ridicule.

On Friday, Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, caused a few titters worthy of a Whitehall farce when he declared - apparently quite earnestly - how “Matt is on the job”.

After telling the British public day in and day out to follow the Covid rules, the minister was caught breaking them by snogging an aide in his office.

It was, of course, Mr Hancock who made clear last year when top UK Government adviser, Professor Neil Ferguson, broke lockdown rules by seeing his lover that he should resign; the minister even suggested he would back Scotland Yard if it took action.

But in his initial statement of apology the minister added insult to injury.

He admitted he had broken the “guidance” but did not admit to breaking the law, which at the time prohibited indoor meetings of people from different households unless they were “reasonably necessary” for work. It’s hard to believe passionately kissing an aide fell into this particular category.

Moreover, the Health Secretary could well have broken the ministerial code, which states that working relationships should be “proper and appropriate”.

Not surprisingly, Mr Hancock had also lost the confidence of the Department for Health, where the mood has been grim. One source spoke for the nation when he complained: “I feel like I’ve been punched in the face.”

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Polls were showing most people felt the Secretary of State should resign. Yesterday morning as the controversy continued the media was desperately trying to find a Conservative colleague, any Conservative colleague, to go on air to defend the transgressor; their absence was tellingly conspicuous.

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group wrote to Downing St, calling for Mr Hancock to go. One group member, Rivka Gottlieb, summed up the nub of the problem. "If he were to announce another lockdown or further regulations, why would anybody listen to someone who doesn't follow the rules themselves?"

In other words, Mr Hancock’s continued presence would simply undermine the Government’s whole pandemic strategy.

But his departure has not ended the controversy.

Opponents scent political blood and while Mr Johnson seeks to replace Mr Hancock – Michael Gove is thought to be in pole position to do so – Labour is focusing in on the little matter of the minister’s amorous aide, Gina Coladangelo, whom Mr Hancock has known since his Oxford days.

By sheer coincidence, the married mother-of-three sits on the board of the Department of Health, which scrutinises its work and the performance of, yes, the Health Secretary.

Dave Penman, head of the FDA senior civil servants’ union, pointed out there was a clear “conflict of interest,” which would undermine the board’s work if one member was having an affair with the Secretary of State.

Last night, Labour demanded the release of all documents relating to Ms Coladangelo’s appointment as a non-executive director, which commands a salary of £15,000 a year for as little as 15 days’ work.

For some time now, dark clouds have been gathering over West Yorkshire for the Opposition and polls have suggested there is a chance Labour will lose its third contest in a row at Thursday’s Batley and Spen by-election with the Tories picking up another “red wall” seat.

And yet could it be that Sir Keir Starmer has finally spotted the first glimmer of an electoral rainbow thanks to voter disgust at how Boris was willing to allow hypocrisy to triumph over honour?

Amid all the political fallout to the Hancock affair, one thing should be remembered; there is a human tragedy at its heart, which could result in two broken families.