COVID-19: Legal challenge launched over 'unlawful' coronavirus crisis appointments

22 November 2020, 04:16 | Updated: 22 November 2020, 04:30

A legal challenge alleging that the prime minister and health secretary acted "unlawfully" when appointing key figures to top posts during the coronavirus crisis, has been submitted by campaigners.

According to The Observer the case had been lodged jointly by the Good Law Project and race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust.

It said the judicial review, submitted to the High Court, alleged that three appointments were made without advertising the positions and without the open competition normally required for senior public sector roles.

The case relates to the recruitment of test and trace boss and Tory peer Baroness Dido Harding; Kate Bingham, head of the UK's vaccine taskforce; and Mike Coupe, director of NHS Test and Trace, the Observer added.

Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project, said on social media: "This is our belief, that cronyism - which undermines the public interest, discriminates against those who don't rub shoulders with cabinet ministers, and shuts out those who lack the family fortune to work unpaid - is unlawful.

"And we at @GoodLawProject mean to prove it in court."

Mr Maughan said that the organisation will publish the full court documents later.

A Number 10 spokesman said: "We do not comment on ongoing legal proceedings."

The Good Law Project and Runnymede Trust's crowdfunding page said that Lady Harding was just "handed the job" as head of the National Institute for Health Protection without any other candidates being considered.

It said that she was not the only one to land a top job this way and that "very often" people who had been recruited had "personal and political connections to the government".

While the page said that appointing "your mates" was not new or the "preserve of the Conservative Party" it was time to put a stop to it.

It added: "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."