Boris Johnson was never likely to fire a member of his cabinet over an alleged affair.
This afternoon Downing Street is busy trying to shut down the Controversy over Matt Hancock and specifies that they consider the matter closed.
But there are many reasons to believe that this problem will not go away so easily.
Angel number 10 knows the damage that can be done by stories that remind the public that there can be one set of rules and assumptions politicians keep – and one for everyone.
Dominique cummingsBarnard Castle’s trip preceded a drop in Conservative poll scores last May.
Mr Johnson is believed to have regretted not sacking his senior aide at the time rather than taking the damage done to the government by defending him.
Could this cycle repeat itself?
As Secretary of Health, Mr Hancock promulgated the regulations he is accused of having broken.
It doesn’t help that everyone is being asked to judge whether the kiss in The Sun was a “reasonably necessary” exception to the ban on indoor contact, the legal test provided for by the regulations.
It also doesn’t help that Mr Hancock was memorably quick to judge Professor Neil Ferguson when the then-Sage scientist was found visiting his lover, and he later resigned.
An instant poll from YouGov found that 49% wanted him to quit and 25% the rest.
Angel number 10 will also be worried about known unknowns.
The Sun, which produced the extraordinary snatch photos of Mr Hancock in an embrace with his college friend, says the health secretary was carrying out a “secret affair.”
That’s not what the pictures show, and it’s unclear what made the newspaper confidently state this on its front page – and what else will come out of it.
Some officials believe the footage was taken from a newly constructed high-rise building overlooking the Ministry of Health.
How long have there been people to take pictures? Why was there a six-week gap between May 6, when the photo was taken, and its publication today?
The uncertainty surrounding these issues will not be pleasant for Whitehall.
Third, there is the question of whether there is yet another conflict of interest. Just a few weeks ago Mr Hancock was found guilty of breaking the ministerial code because he had shares in his sister’s company which was an approved NHS supplier he should have declared.
In this case, Mr Hancock is accused of obtaining a salaried position as a non-executive director for one of his oldest friends with whom he had some form of relationship.
Could Gina Coladangelo have benefited as a lobbyist from the connection?
The health ministry says the appointment was made in the “usual way” and “followed the correct procedure”.
But that will now open the door to a refocus on Mr Hancock, appointments and contracts.
Even Mr Hancock’s friends believe Downing Street’s attempts to end this problem may not work.
He was already under pressure from Mr Cummings’ attacks and Mr Johnson has already spent political capital defending him in order to deny his former aide a scalp.
The Health Secretary issued a statement apologizing and pleading for his family’s confidentiality.
Mr Hancock’s family and Ms Coladangelo’s family were considered close friends, so the price that will be paid on a personal level is likely to be high.
Will he even want to stay in his job?