The meritocracy has had its day. How else to explain the rise of Dido Harding? | Nick Cohen

Public service jobs once went to people who knew what they were doing. Boris Johnson would rather promote a courtier

Who knew that children go to school in September? Who guessed that hundreds of thousands of students head to universities where they – and easily shocked readers should look away – strive with every fibre of their being to mingle with each other as vigorously as they can? What clairvoyant might have predicted that, when the government offered the public cut-price restaurant meals at the taxpayers’ expense, the public would gobble them up? Or that, when the prime minister urged workers to go back to their offices and save Pret a Manger, a few brave souls would have returned to their desks and risked having “dulce et decorum est pro Pretia mori” carved on their gravestones?

You may have expected trouble, but Baroness Dido Harding was flabbergasted. The complaint from MPs that the rise in Covid cases was “entirely predictable” baffled the head of the NHS test-and-trace programme. Nobody “was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand that we’ve seen over the course of the last few weeks,” she said.

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