A pal who was set to defend Health Secretary Matt Hancock on the radio this morning went AWOL instead.
The unnamed ally was booked to appear on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to speak up for the under-fire Tory.
But presenters were instead forced to tell listeners that the individual had not turned up, and was not answering their phone.
Calls are mounting for Mr Hancock to resign after he flouted social distancing rules to snog aide Gina Coladangelo inside the Department of Health’s London HQ.
Mr Hancock has apologised and Boris Johnson, who has previously branded the Health Secretary “f****** hopeless”, said he accepted the apology.
The BBC interview had been scheduled for 7.20am – less than 12 hours after video of Mr Hancock canoodling with Ms Coladangelo was published by The Sun.
Presenters Mishal Husain and Martha Kearney instead had to explain that the ally was not answering his phone.
Listeners were told: “We had been expecting to speak to a supporter of Matt Hancock this morning but he’s not been answering his phone. We will keep trying.”
The embrace, which saw Mr Hancock wrap his arms around Ms Coladangelo as they kissed, reportedly happened on May 6.
Ten days later the Health Secretary called on Brits to be “careful” when hugging people you don’t live with was permitted again on May 17.
Yesterday families who lost loved ones to Covid called on Mr Hancock to stand down or be removed from office.
Hannah Brady, whose father Shaun died aged 55 after contracting Covid-19, said the Health Secretary “has treated bereaved families with contempt” during the pandemic and should have been sacked already for his failures.
She said Boris Johnson’s decision not to sack Mr Hancock is a “slap in the face” to the tens of thousands British families who have lost loved ones during the coronavirus crisis.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Tory MPs were telling the Prime Minister to “pull the plug”, with public reaction over coming days key to his fate.
North Norfolk Conservative Duncan Baker became the first MP to openly call for Mr Hancock to go on Saturday.
He told his local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press: “In my view people in high public office and great positions of responsibility should act with the appropriate morals and ethics that come with that role.
“Matt Hancock, on a number of measures, has fallen short of that. As an MP who is a devoted family man, married for 12 years with a wonderful wife and children, standards and integrity matter to me.
“I will not in any shape condone this behaviour and I have in the strongest possible terms told the Government what I think.”
A snap poll from Savanta ComRes, released hours after photographs of the pair kissing in Mr Hancock’s ministerial office surfaced, found 58% of UK adults thought that Mr Hancock should resign, compared to 25% who thought he should not.
In a statement, Mr Hancock said: “I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances, I have let people down and am very sorry.
“I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter.”
A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Johnson had accepted Mr Hancock’s apology and “considers the matter closed”.
Mrs Coladangelo, who is married to the founder of the retailer Oliver Bonas, Oliver Tress, is a friend of Mr Hancock’s from their days together at Oxford University and was appointed to the DHSC last year.
She was initially taken on as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract in March 2020, before being appointed as a non-executive director at the department.
The Metropolitan Police said it was not investigating any offences, which allegedly took place last month, because “as a matter of course the MPS is not investigating Covid related issues retrospectively”.