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Test and Race – Dido Harding sprints away on Boris Bike as she’s quizzed over COVID-19 spend

Tory peer puts in a start worthy of Victoria Pendleton after Steve ‘Mr Stop Brexit’ Bray spots her on Whitehall

Dido Harding has been filmed sprinting up Whitehall on a Boris Bike* as a protester tried to quiz her over the £37 billion track and trace spend, with the Tory peer putting in a performance worthy of former Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton as she sped away from traffic lights.

Harding, a life peer since 2014 and appointed in May 2020 to oversee what was then called the track, test and trace programme by then health secretary Matt Hancock, was waiting at a traffic light at the junction of Parliament Square with Whitehall when she was spotted by Steve ‘Mr Stop Brexit’ Bray.

A coin dealer from Port Talbot, south Wales, Bray sprang to fame in the wake of the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU and in the past few years has regularly appeared on TV news programmes photo-bombing reporters and the politicians they are interviewing outside Parliament.

Running across Whitehall, Bray – who has continued his protests outside the Palace of Westminster and Downing Street despite the UK leaving the EU – asked Harding, “What happened to the £37 billion?” that the government set aside for the test and trace programme.

Harding ignored him as she headed towards the Cenotaph with Bray shouting, “Where’s the £37 billion gone?” before adding a parting shot of “On your bike!”

It’s not just the ability to pedal up to speed quickly from a standing start that Harding and Pendleton have in common – both have raced as amateur jockeys.

Pendleton finished a very creditable fifth in the Foxhunters’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2016 despite first taking to horseback the previous year, while Harding – who sits on the main board of the Jockey Club – was runner-up in the 1996 running of the same race riding her own horse, Cool Dawn, which went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup two years later.

*Regular readers will know that we usually use the term Santander Cycles, the scheme’s current sponsor – although in this specific case it seems entirely appropriate to reference the [checks Guardian Politics Live in case we missed any news in the past hour or so] current Prime Minister, who as Mayor of London introduced the bikes in 2011, leading to them gaining their popular nickname.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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