Disaster Prone Dido Harding gets another Government gig — What could go wrong?

So NHS England is going to be scrapped and replaced by a new agency run by Dido Harding. You might’ve heard a bit about this lady, but if not, we’re going to do a bit of digging.

Dido Harding, or Baroness Harding of Winscombe, to giver her her title, for she is a peer in the House of Lords thanks to her close friend David Cameron, who appointed her there in 2014 for, as Tories, do, being their mate. She’s on the board of the Jockey Club, the largest commercial horse racing organisation in the country who are responsible for running the Cheltenham Festival. You might recall that despite lockdown measures, Cheltenham Festival went ahead this year. This is especially pertinent, since Cheltenham is in the constituency of Health Secretary Matt Hancock, a big fan of horse racing and this event attracts a quarter of a million people over 4 days. All those people all in one place and £350,000 in donations to Hancock from the horse racing fraternity couldn’t possibly have anything to do with that.

A Horse with a Donkey

She can organise, or be part of the organisation of a big event like that, then surely she must be good at organisation you might say. Her track record says otherwise. She was the CEO for the mobile company TalkTalk who under her charge in 2010 was fined a record £400,000 for failing to prevent hackers accessing the personal data of more than 150,000 TalkTalk customers. The following year, still under her management, TalkTalk was the recipient of Money Mail’s infamous Wooden Spoon Award for shoddy Customer Service, which it won the following year as well — she inexplicably posed with the award for a photograph! Fortunately for TalkTalk Customers, she left TalkTalk later that same year in 2012.

Nice Spoon Dido.

So we have a Conservative Peer, who through her work at the Jockey Club is involved with the organisation of the Cheltenham Festival, which took place this year despite coronavirus and happens in the constituency of the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who happens to have taken a lot of money from horseracing enthusiasts. Hancock then, despite her record with TalkTalk, put her in charge of Track and Trace — what could go wrong?

It was world beating Johnson kept telling us! Only in its failure. It should’ve been the flagship example of how our government were tackling Coronavirus to keep us safe, get the pandemic reducing and get us all back to normal. It is supposed to do exactly what it says on the tin — who has it, track who they’ve met, trace them and isolate them. Idiot-proof in its simplicity really. Well it would’ve been if the govt hadn’t taken 6 months to even bother with a track and trace system, certainly not Harding’s fault, but such was her rank incompetence at this seemingly simple brief, local councils ended up setting up their own track and trace systems! One of the biggest recent outbreaks here in the South West, was in Weston super-Mare, an outbreak that started at the local hospital. You’d think if Harding was going to concentrate her efforts anywhere it would be here, since she’s married to Tory MP John Penrose, who is the MP for, you guessed it — Weston super-Mare!

John Penrose & Dido Harding

A litany of failure that still hasn’t ended because Matt Hancock, her horsey mate, has now decided to scrap Public Health England and replace it with something new, so new it doesn’t yet have a name, but has put Dido Harding in charge of it anyway.

Public Health England are, in the words of their government page — yes I said government page — an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the department run by Matt Hancock himself. So why scrap something he’s already in charge of? Scapegoat! He’s blamed the entire coronavirus failure on a section of his own department. Tory Excuses 101. The exact same thing has happened just yesterday in the education department where Gavin Williamson has blamed Ofqual for the exams screw-up, even though he was warned in July this was likely. Not my fault, it’s their fault even though I’m in charge of them. Tories — it’s never their fault.

So now Hancock is set to replace his scapegoated subordinate organisation with another to do just the same thing, except this time he doesn’t want to be in charge of it, so it’s getting outsourced to Dido Harding. What could go wrong?

Remember her husband? John Penrose? Well in May of this year, during the pandemic, he joined a right-wing think tank called 1828. This think tank, who’s ethos is apparently ‘championing freedom’ has published articles calling for Public Health England scrapped. In fact it’s so right-wing that one of it’s co-founders wrote that they want the entire NHS scrapped and replaced with an Insurance style system.

So we have a Conservative Peer, married to a Conservative MP, with close links to Matt Hancock through the horseracing industry. Who, despite a track record of terrible management at TalkTalk was put in charge of Track and Trace by Hancock & mishandled it so badly she couldn’t even prevent a significant outbreak in her husbands own constituency and was therefore anything but world beating. What does Hancock do next? Decide to scrap Public Health England to get himself off the hook of blame and puts Harding in charge of the replacement, despite her now even more significant track record of failure and the fact her husband is on the advisory board of a think tank that wants to scrap the NHS and bring in health insurance.

We talk of the Tories always handing stuff to their mates, we talk of Tories always seeming to fall upwards, with failure being rewarded by promotion. Here it is playing out right in front of us.

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