Boris Johnson and his health secretary, Matt Hancock, acted “unlawfully” when appointing three key figures – including the head of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding – to posts in the fight against Covid-19, according to a legal challenge submitted by campaigners to the high court.
The Observer has seen details of documents from those pursuing the case – and initial responses from government lawyers – relating to the call for a judicial review into the appointment of Baroness Harding, who is a Tory peer, and into those of Kate Bingham to the post of head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce and Mike Coupe to the role of director of testing at NHS Test and Trace.
The case has been lodged jointly by the not-for-profit Good Law Project headed by Jolyon Maugham QC, and the UK’s leading race equality thinktank, the Runnymede Trust. If it is successful, it would represent a further serious blow to the credibility of the government’s handling of the pandemic and support claims that ministers have been running a “chumocracy”.
The claimants say the appointments were made without advertising the positions, and without the open competition normally insisted on for important public sector roles. Instead they suggest those identified and then appointed were installed in part because of their Tory connections. Harding and Bingham are both married to Conservative MPs while Coupe is a former chief executive of Sainsbury’s, and was a colleague of Harding’s at the supermarket.…