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New ‘chumocracy’ row as Matt Hancock hands job as a close adviser to lobbyist friend from university

Matt Hancock was at the centre of a ‘chumocracy’ cronyism row today after it emerged he gave a  job in the Department of Health to a PR consultant and lobbyist who is one of his closest friends from university.

The Health Secretary made Gina Coladangelo a part-time non-executive director of the department on a reported £15,000 salary while she remains the marketing and communications director of High Street retailer Oliver Bonas.

He has been spotted several times coming out of Number 10 with the former partner at the comms firm Luther Pendragon since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Ms Coladangelo, 42, has also been given a parliamentary pass sponsored by Tory peer Lord Bethel, the Sunday Times reported, despite not working for his team.

The paper also reported she was made an unpaid adviser in the Department of Health on a six-month contract in March, before she took up her paid role, with a source saying:  ‘Before Matt does anything big, he’ll speak to Gina. She knows everything.’ 

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: ‘Another week another cronyism scandal. 

‘Whether it’s giving contracts worth millions of pounds to their chums or giving lobbyist mates jobs and access to secret information, this government is making a mockery of our national effort against coronavirus.’

It came as campaigners submitted a legal challenge alleging that Boris Johnson and Mr  Hancock acted ‘unlawfully’ when appointing key figures to top posts during the coronavirus crisis, it has been reported.

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

Mr Hancock leaving 10 Downing Street with Gina Coladangelo on May 1, when she is reported to have been acting as an unpaid adviser to the Health Secretary

He has been spotted several times coming out of Number 10 with the former partner at the comms firm Luther Pendragon since the coronavirus pandemic began

He has been spotted several times coming out of Number 10 with the former partner at the comms firm Luther Pendragon since the coronavirus pandemic began

Ms Coladangelo's LinkedIn page notes that she was appointed a part-time non-executive director at DHSC in September

Ms Coladangelo’s LinkedIn page notes that she was appointed a part-time non-executive director at DHSC in September

Ms Coladangelo’s LinkedIn page notes that she was appointed a part-time non-executive director at DHSC in September, but there is no announcement on the Government’s own website.

She studied politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) at Oxford between 1995 and 1998. Mr Hancock studied the same subject. 

It is understood that ministers are allowed to make such short-term appointments and that there are plans to formally announce her non-executive directorship, and she declared all relevant conflicts of interest. 

Last week it was revealed a PR firm run by Lord Feldman represents a testing company handed a £28million Government contract after a meeting in which the former Tory chairman was  advising Matt Hancock on Covid.

Lord Feldman insists he had no involvement in the award of the multi-million pound contract despite his business now advising Oxford Nanopore after he worked for the Department of Health at the start of the pandemic.

The arrangement was been branded ‘troubling’ by Labour as a devastating report today lifted the lid on the cronyism and ineptitude that has characterised the Government’s £18billion rush to source PPE and other equipment during the coronavirus crisis. 

The public list of meetings held by Matt Hancock has revealed that on April 1 the Health Secretary and Lord Feldman, David Cameron’s best friend and former Tory party chairman, met with coronavirus test maker Oxford Nanopore. 

Lord Feldman was at the time acting for the Government as an ‘unpaid adviser’ on Covid-19 via his lobbying firm Tulchan Communications where he is managing partner. 

Today it was reported that a judicial review, submitted to the High Court by the Good Law Project, 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 on Sunday.

A No 10 spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.’

The Good Law Project and Runnymede Trust’s crowding funding 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.

Ms Coladangelo, 42, has also been given a parliamentary pass sponsored by Tory peer Lord Bethel (right) the Sunday Times reported, despite not working for his team

Ms Coladangelo, 42, has also been given a parliamentary pass sponsored by Tory peer Lord Bethel (right) the Sunday Times reported, despite not working for his team

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’.

It said: ‘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.’

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.

‘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.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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