Ann Widdecombe comments on Tony Blair's vaccine involvement
The Brexiteer told Jeremy Vine on 5 she would not want former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair to be in charge of coronavirus vaccinations in the UK. But Ms Widdecombe was also very critical of Boris Johnson’s Government’s handling of the system. She said: “I rather he weren’t [in charge of vaccinations]. It is a massive task and we’ve all got to be grown-ups and acknowledge that occasionally some things go wrong.
“I mean with an exercise on this scale.
“And of course, we hear about nothing but the NHS but there’s a whole body of people, retired NHS workers, pharmacists, the independent sector, which are capable of delivering these vaccines, who can help take some of the strain from the NHS.”
She added: “I think the Government has come very, very late to this.
“For example, if you are in one of the vulnerable categories or the age categories, and you are registered with a private practice GP, that GP is telling you now to go and register with the NHS.
“A registration with an NHS GP at a time when they don’t know whether they’re coming or going because that’s the only way they can get a vaccine.
“Come on! Let’s be sensible and help the NHS, not expect them to absorb so much of the strain.”
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Ms Widdecombe’s comments come as it was reported Tony Blair has been holding secret talks with members of Boris Johnson’s Government, in a bid to repair his reputation and make a “de Gaulle-style comeback” to UK politics.
The former Labour Prime Minister, who held the role for 10 years, quit politics in 2007.
But Mr Blair has become increasingly involved in the Government’s coronavirus strategy, by holding talks with Tory ministers and health experts and commissioning reports on how to combat the pandemic.
An insider said the 67-year-old is plotting a return to politics and aims to mimic Charles de Gaulle, who was re-elected as French President, 13 years after leaving office.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Blair has focused on policy to tackle the deadly disease.
Tony Blair says there should be ‘mass testing’ at borders
He repurposed his think tank, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The former Prime Minister has held several meetings with leading figures, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, where Mr Blair offered “strategic advice” on mass testing and vaccines.
The 67-year-old has also been in conversation with Baroness Harding, the head of NHS Test and Trace, and Steve Bates, a former Labour adviser who sits on the vaccine task force.
The former Labour politician has received high praise for his coronavirus strategies, having been an early advocate of mass testing, the use of face masks, quarantining and most recently increasing the time between the two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In one document he even used the term “moonshot” when outlining a mass testing strategy, the name that was later given to the Government’s mass testing scheme.
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In December Mr Blair also called for the UK to delay the second dose of the covid vaccines, in a bid to ensure more people received the first jab.
The Government later adopted the approach and said the second dose would be given towards the end of 12 weeks rather than in the previously recommended 3-4 weeks.
Nigel Farage has even heaped praise on the former politician and called for him to head up the country’s vaccine efforts.
The Brexit Party leader said: “We are in a national crisis and a government of all the talents, including Blair, makes sense. He seems to have a grip on this far more than the cabinet.”
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