Just over a third of the public in England think Matt Hancock should resign after a court ruled that he had “breached his legal obligation” by not publishing details of contracts surrounding personal protective equipment (PPE).
New polling from Savanta ComRes – conducted on Monday – found the public were split on the issue with 36% thinking Hancock should resign, and 37% thinking he should not resign.
But the proportion of those who think he should resign does include 23% of 2019 Tory voters.
Hancock has said that in delaying the contract award notices and sourcing PPE instead, the Department of Health ensured that Britain “never ran out of PPE”, although reports from hospitals and care homes at the time reported shortages.
The polling shows that half of English adults (49%) believe that the UK probably did run out of PPE last year, with a similar proportion of Conservative voters saying the same (46%). This figure rises to two thirds amongst Labour voters (64%), and over half of those aged 55+ (52%).
However, over a quarter of English adults say that we probably did not (28%) run out of PPE last year, rising to a third of Conservative voters (35%).
The health secretary has said the decision was in the “national interest” and he would consider doing so again.
Labour leader Keir Starmer was criticised at the weekend for refusing to call for the health secretary to go, with his party instead calling for him to commit “publishing all outstanding contracts, winding down emergency procurement powers and reintroducing tendering”.
Although Savanta ComRes acknowledged a rising number were unhappy with the conclusion of the court case, the pollster acknowledged that Hancock was unpopular regardless of the issue.
Chris Hopkins, Political Research Director at Savanta ComRes, explained: “While Matt Hancock has remained bullish on the issue, and even Keir Starmer has said this isn’t a resigning matter, the perception among a significant proportion of the public that Hancock and his Department did wrong is clear, even among 2019 Conservatives.
“While this is likely to be reflection of Hancock not being overly popular, although our coronavirus tracker has shown an increase in his approval ratings recently, his categorical line that Britain did not run out of PPE is not an observation felt by the public, who tend to remember health professionals saying the opposite during the height of the pandemic last year.”