Should the law require Government to appoint based on merit?

It’s been a while since you heard from us in our ‘Jobs for the Boys’ case so we wanted to give you an update. As you’ll remember, the case focused on the appointments of Dido Harding – wife of a Conservative MP and friend of David Cameron – first as Head of Test and Trace and then later as Head of the National Institute for Health Protection without any adequate process. Later in the process, we asked about Kate Bingham and Mike Coupe.

We continue to await a hearing date from the High Court – but we have had an explanation from Government of the process that was followed for Kate Bingham to be appointed. That process was less poor than Government had previously led us to understand and so we will not challenge her appointment. 

We are, however, continuing with the challenges to Dido Harding and Mike Coupe where, we believe, the evidence demonstrates that the processes were unacceptably poor. You may also think the outcomes were not much better – and you would expect poor processes to deliver poor outcomes. 

Make no mistake, the case is not straightforward. It is also made more difficult by the political climate.

Very few civil society organisations have the freedom our grassroots funding model gives us. Fewer still can afford to be indifferent to the attacks of a Government that is increasingly intolerant of challenge. Understandably many cannot afford to put their heads above the parapet in support of this litigation for fear of Government, or its increasingly partisan regulators, shooting them off. 

But we have arranged ourselves, as an organisation, so we have that freedom. And we think the principle at stake – that Government must appoint the best candidate, not its best friend – is incredibly important. If we don’t assert the principle we don’t see anyone else who can. 

So we propose to proceed with our attempt to clarify that the law requires Government to appoint based on merit – not on handshakes and private connections. 


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