Matt Hancock: Edinburgh professor says resignation was 'the right thing'
Matt Hancock “lost moral authority” and public trust and has “done the right thing” by resigning, public health expert, Professor Linda Bauld, has said.
The behavioural scientist, from Edinburgh University, also described the Prime Minister’s initial support for his former health secretary as “unfortunate”.
Prof Bauld, speaking on the Trevor Phillips On Sky News show on Sunday, also said compliance on social distancing was declining, potentially putting lifting of restrictions in jeopardy, and that at least 80 per cent of the population would need to be doubly vaccinated for a full reopening to happen.
Asked by Mr Phillips about Boris Johnson’s initial support for Matt Hancock when he declared the matter closed after an apology, she said: "The Prime Minister supporting him, even for a short period, even a day is a long time in politics ... was very unfortunate.
“Mr Hancock has done the right thing, I think, by resigning. Quick action makes a difference.”
She highlighted former No.10 adviser Dominic Cummings's trip to Durham during lockdown, saying a University College London poll suggested “public trust in the UK Government was badly affected by that”, adding: "That dragged on for ages, there was no resignation ... there was a Cummings effect in terms of the UK Government.
"I think the problem in the behavioural messaging is: we can't have one rule for them and another for us. That divides the country.
"And if the government is asking people to change their behaviour, as they still are, and comply with public health guidelines, they need to do it themselves and lead by example. So now Mr Hancock has resigned we need to look ahead and Mr [Sajid] Javid has a huge task on his hands.”
Pressed again on Mr Johnson’s leadership, Prof Bauld said: "I always try and stay out of the politics, but when we’ve had really damning news this week about performance in a whole variety of ways, the National Audit Office doing another review of test and trace in England and showing multiple failings, there are big questions about what’s happened in the UK and we need strong leadership at a time like this.”
The rising numbers of cases of people catching the Delta variant, she said, could throw a lifting of restrictions on July 19 into doubt.
“We have always said it should be data not dates,” she said. “The substantial rise is a cause for concern, but the proportion of people going into hospital is far lower.
"If that trend continues and the hospital numbers don’t go up exponentially, then the government will be under pressure to stick with that date, but all clinicians and researchers will be saying let’s make sure the data is going in the right direction, a week or two before then.”
Describing “the date thing” as a “problem”, Prof Bauld said it engendered a feeling of “relaxation” in people in the same way as preparing for a holiday. "It’s should be more communicated as a tentative date to aim for and could change and government’s are not very good at communicating that uncertainty,” she said.
She said there was hesitation to pin an “exact percentage” on how many people should be double jabbed for full reopening but added: "We’re looking at vaccination double doses of 80 per cent ideally.”