Sajid Javid’s chance to change pandemic response after Hancock scandals – Tom Richmond

FIRST impressions count – and Sajid Javid’s debut in Parliament as Health and Social Care Secretary following the demise of the hypocritical and scandal-hit Matt Hancock was a triumph for grown-up politics (and politicians).

Sajid Javid is the new Health and Social Care Secretary, replacing the now disgraced Matt Hancock.
Sajid Javid is the new Health and Social Care Secretary, replacing the now disgraced Matt Hancock.

The former Chancellor recognised the breadth of his new brief: “Nothing embodies the spirit of public service more than our National Health Service and those who work in our social care.”

He praised the game-changing vaccine programme – acknowledging that Britain owes its “strong position not only to the NHS, but to everyone who has played their part”.

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He demonstrated that he is instinctively a details man – Javid told MPs that his entire first day in office was devoted to “looking at the data” on Covid “and testing it to the limit”.

Sajid Javid is the new Health and Social Care Secretary, replacing the now disgraced Matt Hancock.

He showed a more pragmatic and libertarian approach to the lifting of lockdown: “We know we cannot simply eliminate it; we have to learn to live with it.”

And he confirmed he wants GPs to resume face-to face appointments with patients. Javid even revealed that his own constituents had raised misgivings and that he had already “asked for advice” on the way ahead.

In contrast to the self-important Hancock who mistook his own ‘‘hands, space, face’’ social distancing mantra for ‘‘hands, face, embrace’’ when filmed by a CCTV camera in his own office having a passionate clinch with his aide, Javid brought gravitas, experience, wisdom, sincerity and urgency – all precious political commodities – to the Commons. He also gave the impression that he will also utilise his past experience as Communities Secretary and Housing Secretary, two of his five previous Cabinet roles, to bring about some joined-up government.

And, crucially, may of his answers referred to both hospitals – and social care – as he confirmed that the details of the PM’s reform of care, first promised two years ago, are being worked on by officials. “Social care remains an absolute priority for this Government, and for me,” he added. I’ll hold him to that.

Sajd Javid was present alongside Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions this week.

Javid was also respectful of opponents – the ultra left-wing Leeds East MP Richard Burgon being the only exception – and I hope he goes further and now invites Labour to cross-party talks on the future funding of social care.

He’ll never have a better opportunity to do so before be becomes bogged down in the minutiae of a job that requires him to suppress a pandemic, tackle the longest waiting lists history, overhaul care sector left on its knees by decades of inattention by successive governments and restore competence to the Department of Health and Social Care’s leadership, probity and governance. And that’s just for starters.

If Javid does so, it will further signal that, at the very least, the new Health Secretary is prepared to do politics differently – even if others do not.

Meanwhile, on the subject of Labour, the party was asked last week for a piece of op-ed commentary from Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, setting out its position on social care – and the circumstances in which it would be prepared to work on a cross-party basis.

Sajid Javid is the new Health and Social Care Secretary, replacing the now disgraced Matt Hancock.

The Yorkshire Post is still waiting for a response, and the longer Ashworth delays and dithers, the greater the suspicion that he’s just interested in political pointscoring than playing his part, too, in tackling an issue that will define Britain for decades to come.

In my view, it’s even more reason for Sajid Javid to seize the moment.

TWO weeks ago, I wrote that the Ministerial Code on standards in public life was effectively worthless unless it was enforced by Parliament rather than Prime Minister.

I’m even more convinced of this necessity following the downfall of Matt Hancock whose ‘‘office affair’’ masks wider questions of probity about the corrosive culture of cronyism and nepotism that became prevalent during his tenureship of the Department of Health.

Matt Hancock resigned as Health and Social Care Secretary last weekend.

Yet why the silence from the senior statesmen who could make this happen after Boris Johnson, first, refused to refer Hancock’s multiple scandals for investigation and, second, declined to sack a failed Minister who he described as ‘‘hopeless’’ last year in his own correspondence with former aide Dominic Cummings?

At least the silence of Tory MPs prompted someone to instruct Hancock last Saturday that the game was up. Yet, given Johnson had decreed that this was a ‘‘closed matter’’, I can only assume that Hancock would still be in post this weekend if the Prime Minister got his way.

And that, in itself, is damning of not only the decline in standards of public life – but an emerging, and perturbing, societal acceptance that lying and deceit are now acceptable from the holders of the highest offices in the land. How did that happen?

BORIS Johnson was quick to capitalise on the football euphoria after England beat old foes Germany to reach the Covid-delayed Euro 2020 quarter-finals.

His Instagram account showed the PM with his hands aloft in triumph as Harry Kane scored the decisive second goal. “Well done England, we are all behind you,” posted Johnson. Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, added: “It’s coming home.”

Now, call me a cynic, but is the best use of time – and money – by Downing Street’s taxpayer-funded photographer, waiting for such moments to catch Johnson’s spontaneous joy, or was it all staged once the result was known?

Either way, an own goal.

GOOD to see Redcar MP (and proud tyke) Jacob Young sporting a white rose pin badge at Prime Minister’s Questions this week.

How about the rest of the region’s MPs showing similar affection for Yorkshire and gently reminding Ministers about the importance of God’s Own County?

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