18 October 2022
The Long Shot

My beloved wife Kate Bingham has been hopping around for the past 10 days like an expectant mother, because her first book is published this week.

The Long Shot, co-written with Tim Hames, tells the story of Kate and the extraordinary team of scientists, academics and civil servants she assembled at the Vaccine Task Force, as they worked around the clock to select, procure and deliver new Covid vaccines during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

It is, I can tell you, a gripping read. Inevitably, the media have already picked up some of the juiciest bits, which concern the briefing against Kate — by senior PR people at 10 Downing Street, astonishingly — and the difficulty of making the official machinery of government work effectively at 200 miles an hour. And that's before the tale of the national newspaper which published 22 disobliging and false articles about her, only one of which they even tried to check with her.

But still more striking than the book's revelations are the lessons that Kate distills from the pandemic. These include:  future pandemics are inevitable, and the UK is under-prepared to deal with them. We badly lack scientific and business experience in government, let alone industrially-trained decision makers experienced in all aspects of pandemic management. Healthcare threats are just as serious as national security and should be treated as such.

But she also makes a series of important wider points. One concerns women. The central role of women to the discovery, development and deployment of Covid-19 vaccines is still little appreciated, and not just that of Kate herself of course. Sarah Gilbert, June Raine and Emily Lawson -- all scientists -- played critical roles in helping the UK start mass vaccinations before any other Western country, alongside the amazing women of the Vaccine Task Force.

As Kate points out, it is a shame that we do not see more female scientists in highly visible leadership positions, as well as being a colossal waste of female talent. And women are not recognised enough as entrepreneurs; women-led teams secure just 4% of venture capital funding, despite generating superior financial returns.

Kate will be launching The Long Shot in Hereford on Friday 21st, and in Ross-On-Wye on Thursday 27th. All of her proceeds go to support student bursaries at Herefordshire's pioneering specialist tech and engineering university project, NMITE. Please email me via support@jesse4hereford.com if you want tickets.