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It's time for an end to cronyism

It's time for an end to cronyism

In August, the Conservative Peer Dido Harding was appointed as Head of the National Institute for Health Protection. The wife of a Conservative MP and friend of former Prime Minister David Cameron, Dido Harding didn’t pip other candidates to the post at the interview. There weren’t any other candidates. She was just handed the job.

She’s not the only one to land a top job this way. Each week it seems another individual secures a role of vital public importance without any advertisement or fair process - and very often that individual has personal and political connections to Government.

Our public bodies perform vital functions. Effective Test and Trace is absolutely key to tackling the pandemic. And we need to have those bodies run by people who are the best placed to do the job at hand, who were recruited through open competition and appointed because of what they know, not who they know.

This Government's approach discriminates against those born without a silver spoon in their mouth. It’s unfair to those who don’t rub shoulders with high-ranking Ministers. And it’s unfair to groups who the data shows are shut out of public life.

Appointing your mates to top jobs isn’t new or the preserve of the Conservative Party: we all remember “Tony’s Cronies” too. But it’s high time we put a stop to it. Runnymede Trust and Good Law Project are challenging the appointment of Dido Harding, as well as a string of other appointments which were made with seemingly no advertisement or fair recruitment process.

The judicial review raises two legal arguments:

  • Recruitment without open competition is indirect discrimination on grounds of, in particular, race and disability, contrary to the Equality Act 2010; and
  • Government appears to have breached its public sector equality duty in s. 149 of the Equality Act 2010 in filling senior public sector roles without paying due regard to the impact of its recruitment approach on those with protected characteristics.

You can find their Pre Action Protocol letter here.

The details: 

Good Law Project has instructed Jason Coppel and Hannah Slarks of 11KBW Chambers and Rook Irwin Sweeney. They will work considerably below market rates. 10% of the funds raised will be a contribution to the general running costs of Good Law Project. We will use any surplus to develop other litigation.

Claimant: Good Law Project, 11KBW Chambers, Rook Irwin Sweeney

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