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Covid Inquiry: Where are the consequences?

Johnson and his ilk have the slippery habit of failing up - this can't be allowed to happen this time. 

November 02 2023, 16.19pm

The COVID Inquiry is finally laying bare the individual incompetencies, inadequacies and lack of humanity that many of us suspected existed in the chaotic leadership circles during the pandemic. 

We knew this kind of thing was going on. But now, the callousness, the naivety, the dangerous self-interest, are undeniable, out in the open for all of us to see.
The inquiry has heard that Johnson thought COVID was “nature’s way of dealing with old people,” and messages from the then PM reveal a belief that the elderly are expendable: “The median age is 82-81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get COVID and live longer…” he wrote.

This assertion led to Johnson activating what Cummings calls “Jaws mode” - i.e. leaving the beaches open even after people had been eaten by a ravenous great white. And so, a national lockdown was delayed. And delayed. And people died. 

When lockdown rules were finally implemented, there was “not one day when COVID rules were followed in No 10”, according to the testimony of former deputy cabinet secretary Helen MacNamara. 

We knew this happened. We lived it. We all read about Partygate. And yet, seeing these messages in black and white, and hearing the devastating testimonies from senior officials and civil servants about failures at every level, still causes the bile to rise. Especially for those of us who lost friends and loved ones to COVID; those of us who watched family members die without their loved ones at their side, or had to say their final goodbyes over Zoom or through a window. The anger and the anguish is still so raw. And now we know exactly who to blame. 

Still, beyond enlightening us about the precise wording that was used while our elected officials hung us out to dry during the pandemic, the evidence so far is yet to uncover anything that wasn’t already widely known, or at least suspected. What does matter - and remains an open question - are the consequences for what these people did. 

Johnson and his ilk have the slippery habit of avoiding consequences: failing up, coming out of crises of their own making with lucrative book deals, TV hosting slots, and even high-ranking positions in government. This has to be different. The people at the helm of Britain’s disastrous COVID policies must be held to account in real, meaningful ways. 

Paradoxically, even a tell-all public inquiry does not ensure that. Such inquiries cannot determine criminal or civil liability. That said, revelations that come out of the inquiry could prove incriminating for the key players - and if this is the case, should lead to further investigation and criminal charges, where possible. There is a tendency for leniency when it comes to former government officials, be they onetime soldiers or ministers of the state. This cannot and should not be allowed to happen here.

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