The Covid inquiry is a national embarrassment.
It was intended to help prepare the country for the next pandemic, by determining how best to prevent the mistakes of the past. Instead, its preoccupation with politics, score settling, and the contents of private WhatsApp messages discredits it. The hearings provide entertaining copy for journalists, as the inquiry KC, Hugo Keith, fixates on the trivial, the gossip and the feuds, whilst giving vent to his own political biases.
There is an unpleasant whiff that the inquiry is being used to humiliate, discredit and second guess politicians and civil servants, who were faced with an impossible task. With elections in 2024 it has become a nakedly political circus. That the Labour Mayor of London would use the inquiry to score political points was foreseeable, but no one could have foreseen the KC joining in.
The KC is not a prosecutor; he is only there to get to the facts. Yet, Mr Keith concluded, before hearing any evidence, that Brexit had worsened the impact of the pandemic. He is known in his social circle as anti-Brexit and anti-Boris, but that should not be apparent from his questioning. He appears to be using his appearances to achieve personal notoriety by giving ministers a good kicking. No one could have known how to react to such extraordinary circumstances, attributing personal blame serves no purpose.
The inquiry assumes lockdown was good and that the question to be answered is should it have been harder, faster and longer. This adds to the sense that that the inquiry is out of touch. Judges, barristers, and politicians will tell you they enjoyed lockdown in their large houses. But for most, lockdown devastated lives. The public will not tolerate another lockdown. We need to know what should be done next time to save lives and prevent the consequences of lockdown.
The inquiry is costing hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money. As the inquiry KC salivates over how best to skewer Boris this week, we should be asking: how on earth did this lumbering monster of an inquiry completely lose its way?