Steerpike

Can Javid beat the blob at the Department of Health?

Can Javid beat the blob at the Department of Health?
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One man's loss is another man's gain. Matt Hancock's downfall has meant the return of Sajid Javid, restored to Cabinet sixteen months after his resignation in a Downing Street power struggle. 

Javid wasted no time in taking to the airwaves yesterday, paying the obligatory tribute to his disgraced predecessor and telling broadcasters: 'We are still in a pandemic and I want to see that come to an end as soon as possible. That will be my immediate priority – to see that we return to normal, as soon and as quickly as possible.'

Fighting talk after the past year and a half. Hancock was known to be one of the most pro-lockdown 'doves' around the Cabinet table with his department naturally reluctant to back a loosening of restrictions. Under a new health secretary all that would surely change, no?

Apparently not, according to the official statement put out by the DHSC. The quote which civil servants emailed out after Javid's interview completely gutted the new minister's comments to remove any reference to a return to normality, instead padding it out with boiler plate Whitehall jargon.

It's quite something that the Department of Health felt the need to correct its new boss for sounding too optimistic on his first day in charge. Sources close to Javid later pushed back against the 'approved' lines released by the press office, briefing hacks that the Secretary of State's comments on the need to 'return to normal, as soon and as quickly as possible' 'still stand.'

Steerpike has to ask who is actually running the department: is it the minister or his mandarins? 

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk

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