But it will surprise no-one that those same pundits hold principles of infinite flexibility, and never more so than when alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his dubiously talented cabinet lackeys need to do a little blame-shifting. So it was that Public Health England, a body that reported to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, was abolished in order to cover for its boss’s ineptitude.
As befits a Government whose members know rather less about Parliamentary democracy than they pretend, and care even less, the abolition of PHE was briefed to the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph. Later, it was announced that the successor body, the National Institute for Health Protection, would be headed by Dido Harding, who by the most miraculous of coincidences happens to be a peer. A Tory peer.
Government appointment announcements outsourced here
And as the Guardian has reported, she “has been widely criticised over responsibility for England’s test-and-trace system”. Nonetheless, she is now “the interim chair of the new institute - a merger between PHE and test and trace - and will steer it through its first few months as it seeks to improve the testing and tracing of people who may have coronavirus”. This move has not gone down well outside of the Tory faithful.
Experience? Not as such, as Rachel Clarke noted: “a Tory peer with no public health experience, who presided over the (privately outsourced) Test & Trace debacle”. Ruth McQuillan added “She has no background, expertise or training in public health and no discernible attributes whatsoever for this role, apart from blind loyalty to Johnson and Cummings”. As to the idea of interviewing her for the job, er, well, not actually.
Labour MP Justin Madders was not impressed: “appointed to a body that hasn’t been created yet without an interview and with a track record like that - absolutely no transparency or accountability”. And with the announcement made where? To Parliament, as it should have been? Nope. As Martin McKee confirmed, “A right wing think tank founded by Michael Gove? Of course”. Announced to Policy Exchange.
That’s the same Policy Exchange that claimed cities like Liverpool had failed and so all those living there should move to London. And then came worse news from the London Economic: “The head of the government’s new Institute for Health Protection – which will replace Public Health England – has been found to have direct links to a member of the 1828 advisory board – which called for the body to be scrapped”. Do go on.
“Dido Harding’s husband and former Tory minister John Penrose is part of the right-wing group which, among other things, took a dim view of PHE … the 1828 group has also pushed for the NHS to be scrapped in favour of a system where people pay for insurance either through private firms or a government scheme”. How very Stateside.
At least Hancock appointed the jockey - next time it could be the full Caligula.
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