"Poor man": UK queen expresses sympathy for under fire health minister

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock is seen outside the BBC Headquarters in London, Britain, June 6, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth expressed sympathy on Wednesday for Britain's health minister who has faced repeated attacks from Boris Johnson's former top aide including the revelation the prime minister himself had called him hopeless.

"Very nice to see you again," the queen said to Johnson at the start of their meeting at Buckingham Palace, their first face-to-face get since the outbreak of the pandemic last March, some 15 months ago.

"I've just been talking to your secretary of state for health - poor man ... He thinks that things are getting better,” the 95-year-old monarch said.

"They are," Johnson replied.

The queen's remarks come after Johnson's former aide Dominic Cummings has repeatedly criticised his former boss and Hancock for their response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying the health minister should have sacked and accusing him of lying in meetings.

Last week, Cummings posted screenshots of old message exchanges that he said were with the prime minister, in which Johnson responded to complaints about the slow progress of Hancock’s efforts with the words “Totally (blanked expletive) hopeless”.

(Reporting by Michael Holden. Editing by Andrew MacAskill)

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