Health Secretary Sajid Javid said so at his Downing Street press conference, adding: “The biggest difference is the vaccines.”
As such, it’s even more disturbing that the Government’s reckless refusal to implement plan B to counter the surge in Covid deaths, hospitalisations and infections is matched by vaccine rates slowing down.
This remains the greatest public health emergency of these times and now the Government risks putting the nation’s health – and wealth – at further risk following the short-sighted decision to downgrade the role of Vaccines Minister in Boris Johnson’s recent reshuffle.
This was the role held by Nadhim Zahawi who has since been promoted (and deservedly so) to Education Secretary. Supremely organised, his presence ensured the fastest – and most effective – vaccine rollout in the world.
He also knew how to lead. If colleagues delayed, dithered or dallied, he pulled rank and phoned the Prime Minister directly. He also sat in the Cabinet.
Yet, given the size, scale and seriousness of the health and social care brief, it was also important that another big-hitter was given the vaccines brief to maintain momentum on the rollout, oversee booster jabs and – in short – bang heads together if targets were being missed and health put at risk.
Instead, the PM gave the vaccines and public health remit to Shipley-born Maggie Throup. You might well ask Maggie who? She’s a former a biomedical scientist at the then Calderdale Health Authority, MP for Erewash and a former junior government whip.
Now there’s nothing wrong with that – and her background should be an asset – but this, I fear, is not a time for a novice.
When I asked 10 politically-aware and active acquaintances to name the Vaccines Minister, eight replied Nadhim Zahawi and the other two spotted that it was a trick question because of his promotion. No one answered correctly.
When I typed ‘‘Vaccines Minister’’ into Google (other search engines are available), the very first name that comes up – and ironically on the Gov.uk website – is Nadhim Zahawi.
And when I phoned the Department of Health and Social Care to ask for the name of the Vaccines Minister, the switchboard operator said: “I’ll have to get back to you.” I’m still waiting.
Now I hope – sincerely – that my scepticism is misplaced and Maggie Throup proves to be an outstanding and inspired appointment who can also tackle the great reluctance of under-18s to be jabbed and, therefore, prevent schools from becoming Covid super-spreaders.
Yet, given her low-key impact to date and non-Cabinet status, I hope the Prime Minister will make sure that the DHSC has the necessary expertise, leadership and communications specialists at its disposal.
As Ms Throup told MPs in an underwhelming statement on Thursday: “Vaccines are our first line of defence.” Now, to paraphrase the Boris Johnson’s hero Winston Churchill, the PM needs to recognise as much and “action this day”.
KEN Clarke – still one of the best prime ministers that this country never had – made a profound point with his tribute to Sir David Amess. Now a peer, the former Chancellor did not share his late colleague’s Euroscepticism or support for capital punishment.
But he said Sir David was among the majority of politicians “who would never have dreamed of allowing political disagreement to interfere with personal friendship”.
“He respected the true right of free speech in a free society, which is that you respect the integrity and the sincerity of the person with whom you are having an argument and you maintain civilised dialogue,” added Lord Clarke. Hear, hear.
SO much for the political truce while Westminster mourned Sir David Amess. At the very moment Ministers, MPs and peers gathered in St Margaret’s Church for a spiritual service of remembrance, the Lib Dems were sending out a press release taking the Government to task. Couldn’t they have waited another hour?
BY chance, I spotted my local MP on consitutency duties a day after Sir David Amess was killed. He was visibly shellshocked and touched by the kindness shown to him and colleagues by so many people. As Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater wrote so powerfully in Monday’s edition, MPs and their staff are human beings too.
YOU could not make it up. A Bradford primary school reveals on Channel 4 News how keeping classroom windows open to keep Covid out – the advice of Ministers – is letting in lethal levels of air pollution that are a potential risk to public health. Any chance of some joined-up government?
A FIRST. Mark Johnston, Britain’s most successful Flat trainer and widely regarded as ‘Mr Middleham’, describes himself as a “Scottish Nationalist Brexiteer” in a new biography. He wants independence for Scotland where he was born, and remains a SNP member, but cannot reconcile this with the party’s desire to rejoin the European Union.
FINALLY, regular readers will know I’ve been monitoring Boris Johnson’s announcements on rail improvements here. His assertion in Tuesday’s energy speech that “we’re investing in Northern Powerhouse Rail” is now the 11th undertaking in just over two years – and still no start-time. Just like Northern rail trains of the not so recent past.
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