Campaigners who lost loved ones to the virus condemned the idea that Mr Hancock – who quit as minister after he was found breaking Covid rules by kissing his aide at work – could be allowed to “spin” his story before a public inquiry.
“You’d think the health secretary who presided over one of the worst death tolls in the world would have some humility or seek to reflect on the many lives lost, rather than try and cash in on the tragedy,” Lobby Akinnola, spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, told The Independent.
He added: “The fact that Matt Hancock thinks it’s appropriate for bereaved families to have to listen to his spin on their loved ones’ deaths, before the truth has come out via the inquiry, says it all about the attitude of the man.”
Labour said the idea that Mr Hancock could be allowed to cash in on his pandemic role by penning a book was “absolutely disgusting” and “an insult to bereaved families”.
The party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner urged Boris Johnson to “step in and stop Matt Hancock cashing in on tragedy and failure”.
Ms Rayner tweeted: “It is absolutely disgusting that Matt Hancock gets to put his spin on events – and his failures – for a bumper payday before bereaved families get the truth about the government’s failures and mishandling of the pandemic in a public inquiry.”
The former cabinet minister has reportedly been in talks with a top publisher over a lucrative tell-all memoir about rows in government and his role in the UK’s vaccine rollout.
Mr Hancock confirmed he had been asked to consider a book deal. “I have been approached to write a book, but no decisions have been made,” he told the Daily Mail.
The newspaper claimed that the MP is keen to portray himself in a “heroic” light, citing sources saying he wants to “get his version of events out there” before the public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic begins in spring 2022.
The MP’s spokesperson told The Independent no deal had been agreed with a publisher. “Matt has been approached to write a book about his experiences in the pandemic, but no decisions have been made. There is no deal.”
Responding to the “heroic” claim, Mr Hancock’s spokesperson added: “The people who were heroic during the pandemic were the NHS staff who worked round the clock to save lives.”
Next year’s Covid inquiry is likely to examine whether the government was quick enough to apply restrictions to protect the public from the virus in spring last year, and delve into whether care homes were properly protected.
Mr Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings has accused Mr Hancock of “criminal, disgraceful behaviour that caused serious harm” during the pandemic, arguing that he should have been fired for “15 to 20” different things.
But the ex-health secretary rejected a series of allegations made by Mr Cummings – denying that he ever lied to the prime minister about Covid patients being discharged from hospitals into care homes.
Mr Hancock resigned in June, shortly after leaked CCTV footage showed him kissing his aide Gina Coladangelo at his departmental office in breach of Covid rules.
Daisy Cooper MP, the Lib Dems’ deputy leader, said a book would be “an insult to all the bereaved families fighting for the truth”, adding: “The prime minister must block this attempt to re-write history and start the promised inquiry without further delay.”
Ms Rayner suggested the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) – which advises former MPs who have recently stepped down on what sort of activities they can and cannot carry out – should look at whether the potential book deal is appropriate.
If Acoba fails to act then No 10 should stop Mr Hancock from writing a book, she added. “If the toothless and ineffective Acoba won’t block this then Boris Johnson needs to step in and stop Matt Hancock cashing in on tragedy and failure,” said the Labour deputy.
Mr Akinnola urged the publisher who approached Mr Hancock “to reconsider paying a large cheque for a story that will inevitably cause pain and hurt for those of us who have lost loved ones”.
He added: “Families have a right to hear about the decisions that have changed their lives forever in an inquiry, not a tell-all memoir.”