Any hope that the UK’s Covid inquiry may truly assist us put together for a future pandemic was absolutely extinguished this week. The testimony of Dominic Cummings, Lee Cain and Helen MacNamara, and the media circus surrounding it, has all however confirmed the inquiry’s true objective: to behave as a soapbox for liberal-elite obsessions, to restore the reputations of scientific consultants and state functionaries, and to put all blame for Covid on the ft of ‘populist’ politicians and of lockdown-sceptical outsiders.
Simply take a look at what the inquiry selected to deal with yesterday. ‘The massive takeaway for lots of people’, mentioned one professional visitor on Times Radio, following the six hours of testimony that day, ‘might be how foul-mouthed the Boris Johnson Downing Road was’. Certainly, entrance web page after entrance web page led with Cummings’ description of his fellow colleagues as ‘morons’, ‘cunts’ and ‘ineffective fuckpigs’.
In the course of the pandemic, we got here to anticipate foyer journalists to overlook the massive image. To obsess over Westminster tittle-tattle, somewhat than the deaths and catastrophe attributable to Covid and countless lockdown. However the foul language utilized by the previous PM’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, as revealed in his personal WhatsApp messages, was additionally a key focus of the particular inquiry. It got here up within the first few questions from the inquiry’s chief counsel. Hugo Keith KC put it to Cummings that his ‘revolting’ c-word speckled diatribes had been hampering the efficiency of an in any other case faultless civil service. That he had created a ‘poisonous’ and ‘misogynistic’ environment in Downing Road. And in some way, for causes unexplained and unintelligible, this may have affected the end result of a worldwide pandemic.
Intemperate language was additionally a theme of Lee Cain’s interrogation. It was put to Cain, Johnson’s then director of communications, that the PM had made dismissive remarks concerning the aged victims of the virus, again in 2020. These remarks have equally dominated newspaper entrance pages.
Based on the diary of Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s then chief scientific adviser, Johnson had come to see Covid as simply ‘nature’s method of coping with outdated folks’. Apparently, these phrases are proof, if it had been wanted, that Johnson was a reckless and callous PM. It’s supposed to indicate us that the person who Received Brexit Performed, and who often doubted lockdown, had little regard for human life. However what’s been unnoticed of a lot of the media protection is what Vallance wrote subsequent. ‘I’m not solely certain I disagree’, the chief scientist added.
In fact, dwelling on Vallance’s remarks for too lengthy may impugn the status of an apparently unimpeachable professional. It might muddy the image the media have sought to painting of civil servants and officers behaving with ‘contrition and sobriety’, in distinction with boorish Boris and his ill-mannered advisers.
It’s no exaggeration to say the inquiry has made it clear whose reputations it desires to guard, and whose it desires to trash. Final month, it interrogated a number of scientists. Those that toed the road on lockdown all obtained a hero’s welcome. As Christopher Snowdon has famous, the inquiry has even began to revise historical past to spare the blushes of SAGE, the professional committee advising the federal government. When SAGE member John Edmunds gave his testimony, he was truly praised by the inquiry’s barrister for ‘elevating the alarm’ early concerning the virus to detached politicians. The proof? He had despatched an electronic mail on 12 March saying, ‘We must do much more to handle this epidemic’. But on the exact same day, Edmunds appeared on TV warning in opposition to taking emergency measures. This discrepancy, between this presentation of Edmunds as a courageous Cassandra in personal and what he truly mentioned publicly on the time, was by no means explored.
In the meantime, Carl Heneghan, a professor of evidence-based drugs and main lockdown sceptic, was handled with contempt. His solely involvement within the Covid response was a single Zoom assembly with Johnson in September 2020, through which he known as for ‘focussed safety’ of the aged and an finish to lockdowns. But, on the inquiry, he was subjected to hostile and adversarial questions, as if he had been personally culpable for Britain’s Covid demise toll. His educational credentials had been known as into query. And he was requested to account for the Nice Barrington Declaration, an anti-lockdown open letter that he didn’t even signal. He was additionally proven textual content messages from senior officers calling him a ‘fuckwit’. This was nothing wanting a personality assassination of an professional who dissented from the SAGE line.
If the politics of the inquiry weren’t already apparent, then they grew to become inconceivable to disregard in the present day. Helen MacNamara, the second-most-senior civil servant working in Downing Road on the time, was requested repeatedly about Brexit. She instructed us the federal government’s ‘monomaniacal obsession’ with leaving the EU put the UK on the again foot when Covid struck in early 2020. ‘Every thing else might wait’ till Brexit had been finalised, she mentioned (though she did concede that the planning that had been executed for a No Deal Brexit was ‘immensely priceless’ when it got here to sourcing medical provides). In actual fact, this wasn’t the primary time the inquiry has tried to put Covid on the ft of Brexit. Inside hours of its first ever session again in June, Hugo Keith KC insisted that ‘all of the proof to this point’ factors to leaving the EU as having worsened our response – even earlier than the inquiry had truly heard any proof. In fact, one has to surprise how Brexit hampered Italy, Spain and even Germany, which all suffered from extra extra deaths through the pandemic than the UK.
As issues stand, the inquiry just isn’t set to finish till 2026. However we most likely can write its conclusions prematurely. It would inform us that the clever warnings of courageous scientists and civil servants had been ignored by vote-hungry politicians, and that subsequent time all we have to do is have an extended and harsher lockdown. Hundreds of hours price of testimony might be pored over, and a whole lot of thousands and thousands of kilos spent, simply to reaffirm the fact-lite speaking factors of our degraded political institution. That is already shaping as much as be a liberal-elite whitewash.
Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Comply with him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.
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