Dido Harding

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The Baroness Harding of Winscombe
Dido Harding 2013.jpg
Harding at Policy Exchange in 2013
Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection
Acting
Assumed office
18 August 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byDuncan Selbie (CEO of Public Health England)[1]
Head of NHS Test and Trace
Assumed office
7 May 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byOffice established
Chair of NHS Improvement
Assumed office
9 October 2017
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Boris Johnson
DeputyRichard Douglas
Preceded byEd Smith
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
15 September 2014
Life peerage
Personal details
Born
Diana Mary Harding

(1967-11-09) 9 November 1967 (age 53)
NationalityBritish
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)
(m. 1995)
Children2
FatherJohn Charles Harding, 2nd Baron Harding of Petherton
RelativesJohn Harding, 1st Baron Harding of Petherton (grandfather)
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford
Harvard Business School (MBA)

Diana Mary "Dido" Harding, Baroness Harding of Winscombe (born 9 November 1967)[2] is a British Conservative Party businesswoman serving as chairwoman of NHS Improvement since 2017, and head of the NHS Test and Trace programme and acting chair of the National Institute for Health Protection since 2020.

She is a former chief executive of the TalkTalk Group where she faced calls for her to resign after a cyber attack revealed the details of four million customers. A member of the Conservative Party, Harding is married to Conservative Party Member of Parliament John Penrose and is a friend of former Prime Minister David Cameron. Harding was appointed as a Member of the House of Lords by Cameron in 2014. She holds a board position at the Jockey Club, which is responsible for several major horse-racing events including the Cheltenham Festival.

In May 2020, Harding was appointed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock to head NHS Test and Trace, established to track and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in England. In August 2020, after it was announced Public Health England was to be abolished, Harding was appointed interim chair of the new National Institute for Health Protection.

Early life[edit]

Harding is the daughter of John Charles Harding, 2nd Baron Harding of Petherton, and the granddaughter of Field Marshal John Harding, 1st Baron Harding of Petherton, who commanded the Desert Rats in World War II.[3]

Raised on the family pig farm in Dorset, she was educated from 1978 to 1985 at St Antony's Leweston, then an all-girl independent Catholic school. She then graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford[4] in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, where she studied under Vernon Bogdanor and alongside David Cameron,[5] and then studied at Harvard Business School, gaining an MBA.[6]

Career[edit]

Upon graduating in 1988 she joined the management consultancy McKinsey & Company.[7][8] In 1995 she was appointed marketing director of Thomas Cook before moving to Manpower and Kingfisher in 1998 and Woolworths in 1999.[8][9] From 2000 to 2004 she was “commercial director for value added foods" and then “international support director” at Tesco.[9] In 2007 she moved to Sainsbury's as convenience store director, and took a seat on the operating board in 2008.[10] She was named the first CEO of TalkTalk in 2010, when Carphone Warehouse split its telecoms business from its retail operation.[11][12] She was appointed as a non-executive director on The Court of The Bank of England in July 2014.[10] She has also served on the boards of British Land and Cheltenham Racecourse.[10]

In October 2015, TalkTalk experienced a cyber-attack, during which personal and banking details of up to four million customers, not all of which were encrypted, were thought to have been accessed.[13] City A.M. described her responses as "naive", noting that early on, when asked if the affected customer data was encrypted or not, she replied: "The awful truth is that I don't know". Her inflexible line on termination fees was also criticised.[14] Marketing ran a headline, "TalkTalk boss Dido Harding's utter ignorance is a lesson to us all".[15] The Evening Standard noted that "It has been a tough week for TalkTalk boss Dido Harding, facing complaints from customers and calls for her head".[16] The company admitted the incident had cost it £60 million and lost it 95,000 customers.[17] Fining the company £400,000, the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham blamed a "failure to implement the most basic cyber security measures."[18]

In February 2017, Harding announced that she would stand down as CEO of TalkTalk in order to focus more on her public service activities.[19] In January 2018 she joined the main board of the Jockey Club, which runs many of British horse racing's most popular events, including the Grand National, the Cheltenham Festival and the Derby.[20]

Political service[edit]

Harding joined the House of Lords as a Conservative life peer on 20 October 2014.[21] She has sat on the Economic Affairs Committee since 27 June 2017.[22] She has not rebelled against her party on any of the votes she has attended during her time in the House.[23]

In October 2017, Harding was appointed chair of NHS Improvement, which is responsible for overseeing all NHS hospitals, comprising foundation trusts and NHS trusts, as well as independent providers of NHS-funded care.[24][25] Parliament's Health Select Committee, at that time chaired by former Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, recommended that Harding resign as a Conservative peer and sit as a crossbench peer in order to "allow for greater parliamentary and public confidence in her ability to challenge government ministers and policies if this role demands it". Harding did not accept this.[26]

In May 2020, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that Harding was to be put in charge of the "track, test and trace" programme (later given the name NHS Test and Trace) as part of the UK government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[27] In November 2020, a case was lodged jointly by the not-for-profit Good Law Project and the Runnymede Trust, a race equality thinktank, to challenge the legality of this appointment.[28]

On 18 June 2020 it was announced by Hancock that the UK government intended to switch its contact-recording mobile phone app from a centralised model to the decentralised approach pioneered by Apple and Google, due to privacy concerns, among other things. Harding was to decide on the suitability of the alternative model. She stated that "what we've done in really rigorously testing both our own COVID-19 app and the Google-Apple version is demonstrate that none of them are working sufficiently well enough to be actually reliable to determine whether any of us should self-isolate for two weeks [and] that's true across the world". The change was, however, widely interpreted in the press as an abandonment of the UK's app in favour of the Apple-Google one, and a U-turn by the government.[29][30] The BBC also reported that the "latest developments come a day after the BBC revealed that a former Apple executive, Simon Thompson, was taking charge of the late-running project as part of Baroness Harding's team".[29]

In August 2020 it emerged that Harding was to become the inaugural chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, a new body formed as a result of the merging of Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace.[31] The appointment was criticised by health experts as she did not have a background in health, and because of her political position.[32][33][34] The Guardian quoted allies of hers who, in response, said that she had quickly learned after being appointed chair of NHS Improvement in 2017 and that she had a record of "getting things done" while working in business.[32] It has been widely reported that her appointments to various public bodies came about through nepotism and her alliances with members of the Conservative party and key figures in the political establishment.[35] Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project, wrote: "For ministers or special advisers to choose their friends or close associates for these key roles is to exclude those who are more able, or better value. And ultimately it is the public interest that suffers."[36]

Honours and awards[edit]

In February 2013, she was included in that year's list of the hundred most powerful women in the UK by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[37] The following year, she was named in the ten most influential women in the BBC Woman's Hour Power List 2014.[38]

Harding was created a life peer on 15 September 2014, taking the title Baroness Harding of Winscombe in the county of Somerset.[39][40]

Personal life[edit]

In October 1995, she married John Penrose, who was elected MP for Weston-super-Mare in 2005 and went on to hold junior minister posts from 2010 to 2019.[41] The couple met while working at McKinsey, have two daughters, and live in London during the week and Somerset at the weekend.[42][43] Penrose sits on the advisory board of a think tank called 1828, which calls for the NHS to be replaced by an insurance system and for Public Health England to be scrapped.[44]

Harding is a horse racing enthusiast and member of the Jockey Club, joining the main board in January 2018.[20] In 1993 she borrowed £7,000 from her bank to buy an Irish thoroughbred to ride in ladies' point-to-point races. In 1998, her horse Cool Dawn won the Cheltenham Gold Cup.[45][46] Harding rode Cool Dawn herself for three seasons, achieving second place in the 1996 Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham.[47] She said that the horse: "[...] taught me that dreams come true, sometimes, that actually miracles can happen. Isn’t that a great gift? I think it shaped my business career [...]".[48]

Books[edit]

  • Harding, Dido (8 March 1999). Cool Dawn: My National Velvet. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84018-179-6.

Arms[edit]

Coat of arms of Dido Harding
Coronet of a British Baron.svg
Harding of Winscombe Lozenge.png
Notes
Baroness Harding of Winscombe's arms are those of her father, John Charles Harding, 2nd Baron Harding of Petherton, but on a lozenge shaped shield.
Coronet
Coronet of a Baron
Escutcheon
Argent, on a Bend Azure, between two Lions passant guardant Gules, two Kukris in saltire between two Martlets Or.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Government creates new National Institute for Health Protection". GOV.UK. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  2. ^ "Dido Harding". Brough Scott. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  3. ^ Parker, Andrew (3 December 2010). "New chief rings the changes at TalkTalk". Financial Times. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  4. ^ "Magdalen College web-site". Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  5. ^ "The rise and rise of Dido Harding". BBC News. 19 August 2020. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  6. ^ Butler, Sarah (9 October 2007). "Business big shot: Dido Harding". The Times. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  7. ^ Prosser, David (17 November 2010). "The Business On Dido Harding, Chief executive, TalkTalk". The Independent. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  8. ^ a b Saunders, Andrew (September 2016). "TalkTalk boss Dido Harding: "Sometimes its OK to admit to your fallibility"". Management Today. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Dido Watch : A Harding reigns gonna fall…". www.private-eye.co.uk (1529). September 2020. Archived from the original on 7 September 2020. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  10. ^ a b c "Diana 'Dido' Harding: Non-Executive Director, Court of Directors". Bank of England. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  11. ^ Hall, James; Neate, Rupert (15 December 2009). "Ex-Tesco high-flier Dido Harding to head demerged TalkTalk". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  12. ^ "Corporate governance". TalkTalk Group. Archived from the original on 26 February 2011.
  13. ^ "TalkTalk cyber-attack: Boss 'very sorry for security breach'". BBC News. BBC. 23 October 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  14. ^ Scully, Rebecca (28 October 2015). "cityam". cityam. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  15. ^ Pemberton, Andy. "TalkTalk boss Dido Harding's utter ignorance is a lesson to us all". marketingmagazine. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  16. ^ "City Spy: The TalkTalk hack is just another 'occupational hazard". Evening Standard. 28 October 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  17. ^ "TalkTalk hack toll: 100k customers and £60m". Wired. 2 February 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  18. ^ "TalkTalk hack: Two men plead guilty to TalkTalk hack". ITPro. 27 April 2017. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  19. ^ Sweney, Mark (1 February 2017). "TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding to step down". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  20. ^ a b "Dido Harding and Sandy Dudgeon become Stewards". The Jockey Club. 12 December 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  21. ^ "Baroness Harding of Winscombe - Contact". UK Parliament. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  22. ^ "Baroness Harding of Winscombe - Parliamentary career". UK Parliament. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  23. ^ "Voting Record — Baroness Harding of Winscombe (25239)". The Public Whip. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  24. ^ Dunhill, Lawrence (9 October 2017). "New chair of NHS Improvement revealed". Health Service Journal. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  25. ^ "Baroness Dido Harding - NHS Improvement". improvement.nhs.uk. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  26. ^ Heather, Ben (20 October 2017). "New NHS Improvement chair urged to retire Tory whip". HSJ Jobs. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  27. ^ Hancock, Matt (7 May 2020). "Delighted that @didoharding has agreed to step up to lead our vital cross-govt Test and Trace". @MattHancock. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  28. ^ Helm, Toby; Savage, Michael (21 November 2020). "Boris Johnson 'acted illegally' over jobs for top anti-Covid staff". the Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  29. ^ a b Kelion, Leo. "UK virus-tracing app switches to Apple-Google model". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  30. ^ Donnelly, Laura. "NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app ditched in major U-turn". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  31. ^ Hughes, Laura (17 August 2020). "Dido Harding to lead new pandemic agency for England". Financial Times. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  32. ^ a b Campbell, Denis (18 August 2020). "Dido Harding: confident, loyal – but with precious little relevant experience". The Guardian.
  33. ^ Cruse, Ellena (20 August 2020). "Matt Hancock defends appointment of Dido Harding as National Institute for Health Protection head". Evening Standard. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  34. ^ "Britain's new health boss sparks cries of cronyism". POLITICO.
  35. ^ Clark, Ross (18 August 2020). "Dido Harding's unstoppable upward rise is an egregious example of the chumocracy at work". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  36. ^ Maugham, Jolyon (16 November 2020). "Covid-19 contracts smell of cronyism – so I'm taking the government to court". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  37. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Woman's Hour – The Power List 2013". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  38. ^ "Woman's Hour Power List 2014 – Game Changers". BBC Radio 4.
  39. ^ "No. 60993". The London Gazette. 19 September 2014. p. 18258.
  40. ^ "Karren Brady and Sir Stuart Rose among new life peers". BBC News.
  41. ^ "Parliamentary career for John Penrose". UK Parliament. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  42. ^ "John Penrose". The Conservative Party. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  43. ^ Smith, Mikey (2 June 2020). "Tory MP husband of Test and Trace chief Dido Harding linked to anti-NHS group". Mirror. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  44. ^ "Covid-19 contact tracing to be taken over by new public health body". New Statesman. 18 August 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  45. ^ Harding, Dido (8 March 1999). Cool Dawn: My National Velvet. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84018-179-6.
  46. ^ "Diana Harding: Executive Profile & Biography". Businessweek.com. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  47. ^ Tyers, Alan (3 August 2017). "Dido Harding wins gloriously chaotic opener on day for hanging on to hats at Goodwood". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  48. ^ Jones, Eleanor (30 March 2018). "'He taught me dreams can come true': Point-to-pointer who won Gold Cup dies aged 30". Horse & Hound. Retrieved 15 September 2020.