The hypocrisy is stunning. It seems clear that Dido Harding has done something embarrassing that Boris Johnson wants to hide.
That’s the only reasonable explanation for the Tory government’s decision not to honour a request for details of meetings she held with other people and organisations since taking on the job of running the ‘Test and Trace’ organisation that has cost £37bn so far.
The Tories are saying honouring the Freedom of Information request by the Good Law Project would cost more than the £600 permitted for such matters, but this is ridiculous; these details have been deliberately omitted from a schedule of all meetings held by Department of Health and Social Care officials, ministers and advisers on a quarterly basis.
We can only conclude that the government does not want us to know who Harding has been meeting, what they discussed, and how much money she spaffed away as a result.
£37 billion is an enormous amount of money. Some commentators have suggested that ‘Test and Trace’ is nothing more than a conduit through which the Tories are corruptly draining the public purse, pumping money into the hands of people who are already extremely rich, in order to make sure poor people who really need help are deprived of it.
This response from the government shows that it really has no answer to that.
One appropriate reaction might have been to refer the matter to the government’s anti-corruption champion – but that would be John Penrose MP, who happens to be her husband. People are having doubts that he’ll do his job properly, for some reason…
Meetings held by Test and Trace's Dido Harding were kept secret.
I may have to refer this to the government's Anti Corruption Champion, her husband, John Penrose MP. https://t.co/ZaLYzkgZ0W
— Parody Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson_MP) March 10, 2021
And they certainly aren’t accepting the Tory line on this:
Are Dido Harding and Matt Hancock serious saying they can’t afford to publish details of whom she placed 100’s untendered contracts that Total £37billion, because they can’t afford to spend on a Secretary to collate the list and type it up for taxpayers scrutiny? @GoodLawProject
— #3.5% #IamEuropeanToo #FBPE #FBPA (@Veritas_Veritas) March 11, 2021
Some have even gone for the nuclear option – denouncing Harding for a lack of credibility on a stellar scale:
Dido Harding makes Chris Grayling look competent.
— Jon Jones (@JonJonesSnr) March 11, 2021
The simple fact is that the government should have published details of Harding’s meetings and chose not to.
This has focused attention on them. People want to know who she met, what was said, whether any money changed hands (without going through the normal tendering process) and if so, how much.
The longer the Tories drag their heels, the worse it will be.
Perhaps Harding could save everybody the bother by going back through her diary and producing a list? That wouldn’t cost £600 or even 600 pennies.
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