22 November 2020 — Good Law Project
Kate Bingham heads up Britain’s vaccine task force. She’s a venture capitalist with no public health experience, married to a Conservative minister. Dido Harding leads the Test and Trace system. She has no public health experience and is the wife of a Conservative MP. Mike Coupe, is head of COVID-19 testing, and has – you guessed it – no public health experience. The list goes on.
Why – when facing the single greatest threat to public health this country has ever seen – would the Government of the day not want the best-qualified people to lead the response?
Thousands of lives depend on these public bodies. Yet this Government has handed them over without competition to cronies who’ve channelled billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to private companies and their associates – while the Test and Trace system fails.
In response to our pre-action letter demanding ministers reveal how and why these individuals were chosen to lead vital public health bodies, Government failed to produce any evidence. But they concur that the roles were not openly advertised: there was no proper recruitment process. A number of people – who just happen to share the quality of being friends of the Conservative Party – were just given the nod. This is not the Britain we should be, and we don’t believe it is lawful. So we’ve taken the next step in our claim with the Runnymede Trust and filed for judicial review. In accordance with our desire for transparency, we have posted the bundle so you can read it.
Closed recruitment particularly discriminates against Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, and disabled people. The Government’s practice of offering these roles unpaid rules out those without family wealth. Those who don’t rub shoulders with high-ranking Ministers are often shut out. And public confidence is undermined: how can we see, without transparency, whose interests this serves? The public’s – or the private interests of friends of the Conservative Party? Government now has 21 days to respond.
When we come to look at the evidence of how we managed the pandemic – with both excess deaths and the hit to the economy among the highest in the developed world – what will we conclude about who benefitted from giving jobs and contracts to friends?
If our politicians care in the slightest about public trust, public service needs to be exactly that, not a cloak for the advancement of private interests.
This legal piece of litigation stands to reshape society.
Jolyon Maugham QC
Director of Good Law Project