UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have been accused of acting ‘unlawfully’ while appointing three key figures to top posts in the fight against COVID-19. Campaigners have submitted a legal challenge against the two to the High Court alleging that the three appointments, including head of the NHS Test and Trace Dido Harding, were made without advertising the position. The case, filed jointly by the Good Law Project and think tank the Runnymede Trust, also stated that the appointments are unlawful as there was no open competition for the senior public sector posts.
The judicial review names three posts – NHS Test and Trace head Dido Harding, UK’s vaccine task force head Kate Bingham and NHS Test and Trace director Mike Coupe, according to a report by The Guardian. Campaigners have alleged that the three have been appointed to their posts because of their ‘Tory connections’ as Dido Harding and Kate Bingham are married to Conservative MPs and on the other hand, Mike Coupe, was a colleague of Harding and is the former Chief executive of Sainsbury, as per a report by The Guardian.
“Cloak for the advancement of private interests”
Terming it as ‘chumocracy’, the director of race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust, Dr Halima Begum informed that the organisation is teaming up with the Good Law Project to launch legal proceedings against the UK government officials. She further added that the nation ‘demands accountability’ for ‘nepotism around public health appointment’ while calling the appointment of Dido Harding, Kate Bingham and Mike Coupe ‘non-contested’.
“I’m pleased to announce the Runnymede Trust and the Good Law Project have now launched legal proceedings against the UK Government for potential breach of Equality Act 2010 in the non-contested appointment of DidoHarding et al to head broken Track and Trace system. #EndNepotism #BLM,” read a tweet from Dr Halima Begum.
On the other hand, the director of the Good Law Project, Jolyon Maugham QC took to Twitter to slam Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock informing that the full court documents will be published by the organisation on Sunday. He also called out the politicians stating that if they ‘care in the slightest about public trust’ things need to go back to usual. He further added that Public service should be about public trust and ‘not a cloak for the advancement of private interests’.
“This is our belief, that cronyism – which undermines the public interest, discriminates against those who don’t rub shoulders with Cabinet Ministers, and shuts out those who lack the family fortune to work unpaid – is unlawful. And we at the Good Law Project mean to prove it in court,” said Jolyon Maugham in a tweet.
Here’s our crowdfunding page – which includes our initial letter before action to the Prime Minister. We will publish the full Court bundle (unlike this Government we believe in transparency) tomorrow. https://t.co/1PaJsSMCYs
— Jo Maugham (@JolyonMaugham) November 21, 2020