If the former health secretary wants to avoid being the fall guy for Britain’s pandemic failures, he should stop the constant overclaiming
Few public figures have emerged from the Covid-19 inquiry’s autumn hearings with more damage to their reputations than Matt Hancock. Admittedly, Mr Hancock’s public standing was not high at the outset. But he has been one of the prime targets in the Whitehall blame game that has played out in the inquiry since October. Only Boris Johnson, who will give evidence himself next week, has taken worse hits to his public standing, as politicians, advisers and civil servants jockey to explain how Britain proved so unprepared for a pandemic that has killed more than 230,000 UK residents since the start of 2020.
Thursday was Mr Hancock’s chance to strike back. He certainly made a go of it. His “nuclear levels” of self-confidence, to which the Cabinet Office civil servant Helen MacNamara had drawn attention in her testimony, and which reached their zenith in his reported wish to decide which NHS patients should live and which should die, were prominent in all his answers. No question seemed to puncture his belief, which was aggressively argued in exchanges with the inquiry counsel Hugo Keith, that his own actions were consistently timely, wise and tough, and that any fault lay wholly elsewhere, and mainly in 10 Downing Street.
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