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The Guardian view on the Covid inquiry: time to bring it on | Editorial

Dominic Cummings’ charges have strengthened the case for the official public inquiry into coronavirus to be brought forward from next year

Faced with Dominic Cummings’ fusillade against Boris Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the government on Thursday circled the wagons. As a short-term expedient, it made grubby tactical sense. The Conservative party believes public feeling is on its side because of the vaccination programme. Mr Cummings is mistrusted because of the Barnard Castle debacle. The former Downing Street adviser has not yet published the documents that may corroborate his claims. This added up to a window of opportunity for ministers to dismiss the allegations as false or unsubstantiated, and for Tory MPs to put on a display of unity behind the health secretary, Matt Hancock.

It was not, though, a morally dignified exercise, especially in the light of Mr Cummings’ grave claims that tens of thousands of British people died unnecessarily because of the government’s failures and that Mr Johnson is not fit to be prime minister. In political terms, it may not be a sustainable position either. The charges levelled on Thursday by Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth were substantive and serious. Fourteen months ago, Mr Hancock promised a protective shield around care homes; yet 30,000 care home residents died. He promised extensive supplies of personal protective equipment; yet up to 8,700 patients and 850 health workers died after contracting the virus in hospitals. These shocking facts are not going to go away.

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