Nadhim Zahawi Should Have Been Health Secretary – Conservative Article
Matt Hancock has resigned. After it was revealed that he had an affair with a work colleague, breaking social distancing guidelines as he did so, his position became untenable. With the scrap of dignity he had left, thankfully he realised this. His replacement, to me, was obvious: Nadhim Zahawi. Johnson however clearly disagrees, returning Sajid Javid to the Cabinet. While I have no fear about Javid’s capability, Zahawi seemed better equipped for the job.
Firstly, Zahawi’s role as Vaccine Minister made him perfect for this job. He will no doubt be in regular contact with the NHS and other health bodies, already establishing much needed connections. Vaccine Minister would have entailed a lot of logistical organisation too, preparing him for the organisation required as Health Secretary. Furthermore, he would have no doubt worked with Hancock in his role as Secretary, due to the success of vaccinations being key to England’s lockdown exit strategy. Zahawi then would be familiar with the inside of the Department of Health and wouldn’t require too much of an introduction.
Zahawi’s current success would also bring something that is much needed in the Health Department: goodwill. His current success means he has proved himself as competent, and people would be glad to see that being injected into the Health Department. His appointment would have helped to clear the tainted image that recent holders of Health Secretary (Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock) have left behind. Zahawi is a relatively fresh face in government, with only a few prior junior roles to his name. But this is by no means a negative, look at the success Rishi Sunak achieved as Chancellor after being thrust into the role.
Sajid Javid possesses neither of these key attributes. He has had no prior experience in a health role, meaning that he would require more of an introduction than Zahawi. While in normal times this wouldn’t be too much of an issue, current times make it more of a sticking point. Any deviation from the NHS’s recovery from COVID could be costly.
While Javid had a longer tenure in government roles, they have mostly been to do with finance. Javid has had little experience that the Health Secretary requires. Javid does however possess more experience with the workings of government, though he has been out of a role for over a year. And the government has changed a lot in a year.
Zahawi’s past with YouGov would have also been useful in the role of Health Secretary. He co-founded the company and managed to build it into the major source of polling that it is today by taking risks. This would have again bolstered his experience with logistical work.
In 2002, he and his colleagues polled Will Young to win the contest Pop Idol. This however went against the mainstream narrative that Gareth Gates would win, so no newspapers would run YouGov’s polling. Instead of backing down, Zahawi and his team stood by their research and triumphed because of it.
In 2003, Zahawi put his neck on the line in a more literal sense by going to Baghdad and setting up a polling project. These risks paid off and built YouGov into a well-known polling firm. Zahawi is good with risk-taking calculations. Indeed, being the vaccination minister was a risky proposition. But he pulled it off with great success. Backing yourself when no one else will is also a strong quality to have.
This ambition is what the health secretary needs right now. Javid is merely a safe pair of hands. He didn’t attract controversy in his previous government roles, though he also didn’t attract a strong amount of goodwill either. While this doesn’t add to the marks that politicians like Hancock and Hunt have left, it doesn’t clear the image that the Department of Health has gained either.
Having held two high profile positions in government before, Javid carries the weight of the decisions he made in those roles into his new role. Labour are already questioning his record on social care cuts. A slightly fresher face would have been better.
While Javid was unjustly removed from his role as Chancellor and should be reinstated in the Cabinet, health secretary is not the role for him. Nadhim Zahawi would have been a much better fit. His actions as vaccine minister were hugely beneficial for the country. He should have been rewarded for his contributions through a promotion. Zahawi is a secretary in waiting. This could have been his chance to truly shine, however disappointingly it isn’t.
Written by Conservative Senior Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
The time for Zahawi will come – Liberal Response
This article is well written by Kieran; he echoes the belief of many with regard to Nadhim Zahawi. His time as vaccine minister has been a success and he was well qualified to have taken over as health secretary. However, Javid is qualified in other ways. A minister does not need to have experience in a specific role because of the continuity of the civil servants in the department. Instead, experience in higher cabinet positions may be a better qualification.
Kieran presents Sajid Javid as a “safe pair of hands”. But is this not exactly what is needed at the moment? We are by no means out of the pandemic; the role requires a stable minister to guide us through to the end. We do not need someone seizing an opportunity. Zahawi’s success will not be forgotten. An opportunity to take control of a senior cabinet position will come. When it does it should be without a potential poisoned chalice of a pandemic with which to navigate a whole department.
Javid will guide us through to the end of this pandemic and out of lockdown. Once this is done there are many cabinet positions that I believe require a reshuffle. Should Zahawi be overlooked again, this would be the right time for Kieran’s questions to be answered.
Written by Liberal Writer, Fletcher Kipps
Is the Safer Choice the Right Choice? – A Labour Response
Matt Hancock’s resignation was certainly necessary. I’m with Kieran on this. While his personal affair may not have been the worst of his decisions over the course of his career, there would exist too much hypocrisy and negativity if he had remained as health secretary. But of course, this left one of the most important cabinet positions open for a replacement.
I was shocked to see Sajid Javid return to the Cabinet in this particular role. Like Kieran, I have little awareness around his appropriate credentials for this role – other than his years of experience in alternative cabinet roles. Right now, we need someone who can jump right in with the COVID response, and arguably someone with medical experience or knowledge would be a better fit. However, we also know how little trust the people have in the government at the moment and so it does make sense that Johnson would want to appoint “a safe pair of hands”, as Kieran puts it.
Kieran does make a solid case for Nadhim Zahawi. Zahawi may have more medical experience but he is a less well-known pair of hands. Essentially, he’s the riskier option. And if he did take on this role, who would take over as vaccines minister? Kieran himself recognises Zahawi’s success in this role and it would be, again, a risky move to reassign this role.
Regardless of whom you would have preferred to see as health secretary, Sajid Javid has it and is faced with a difficult few months of decisions. I don’t envy his sudden responsibility. Perhaps Zahawi’s time will come in the future, but for now, we can hope that the safer choice was the right choice.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo