His iniquitous austerity programme left the population sick, vulnerable, and unprepared for a pandemic
The bells tolled at 4pm today, the deadline when every shred of evidence would be handed over by law to Heather Hallett, the retired high court judge. The government set up the Covid inquiry, ordained its wide remit, gave its chair legal powers to command whatever evidence she deems necessary, but then balked at obeying it.
Public attention will focus on the contents of those WhatsApps and notebooks. What were ministers and officials saying to each other? Is Dominic Cummings right that Boris Johnson said “let the bodies pile high?” Other forms of callous cynicism may be exposed if we discover that ministers knew “eat out to help out” was a plague spreader and put the economy before safety. More will be revealed about fast-tracked mega-contracts for cronies, and about those who were heroes among the good scientists and doctors. Ministers’ tone will set the context for all they did, as bereaved families watch hawk-eyed every step of the way. This battle over admissible evidence and black-ink redactions is only the first struggle among politicians hoping to preserve their reputations. By the final reckonings, whatever the blame and praise, these actors will have left the political stage.
Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist
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