Farrukh Dhondy | Focus on Boris, Rishi as Britain examines how it handled Covid
“Why not accept that trees can sing
When autumn winds blow through their leaves?
Mocking the silent buds of spring
This shedding oak constantly grieves.
Bachchoo, you know it’s just the air
Vibrating -- not a song or sigh.
Logic and science are so unfair,
Sentencing poetry to die…”
From Allowed-In Killjoy -- A History by Bachchoo
In the UK in 2021 alone 77,727 people died of the Covid-19 pandemic; in 2020 the number was 69,771 while in 2022 the figure was 46,000. These deaths would have been seen in, say a plague year in Britain (three of these raged in Shakespeare’s lifetime) as an act of God. Not today. A proportion of these excess deaths are certainly seen as the consequences of the stupidity of some in the population and, much more seriously, as failures of government policy.
Which government is now compelled to launch a public inquiry into the entire handling of the epidemic and the government’s reaction or failure. The inquiry is entrusted with finding out precisely how the virus spread and what the government of the time did or did not do.
When Covid struck BoJo was the PM, Hedgie Sunoch was the chancellor of the exchequer, Dominic Cummings was chief adviser to BoJo and two scientific and epidemiologist experts, Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, were recruited for day-to-day discussions and the formulation of policy. The advisory panel was called SAGE -- the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies -- and had perhaps 50 professors and medical experts doing their research and forwarding their results.
Now, after a period of criticism and examination in the media, including all manner of denials, the main one being vaccine-scepticism and even lunatic conspiracy theories about the anti-Covid vaccine being infused with mind control drugs to reduce human beings to robots in the service of Bill Gates, the inquiry is in progress. It is questioning the key policy makers.
The purpose of the inquiry is not to lay the blame for the deaths or misjudgments at anyone’s door. There can be no official recriminations, holding to account or bringing charges against anyone. The purported aim of the inquiry is to prepare for future pandemics by examining the handling of this one.
Even so, the witnesses to the inquiry have produced some damning statements against other players in the top team of handlers. The inquiry uses testimony from the witnesses, recorded and verbal recollections, diaries, WhatsApp and other media messages between members, etc.
As I hinted, gentle reader, two sensational remarks have been widely reported in the press.
The first was from Dominic Cummings, the senior adviser to Prime Minister Boris “Pinocchio” Johnson, whom BoJo subsequently dismissed and made a bitter and vengeful enemy of. Mr Cummings testified that Boris Johnson had, when the pandemic hit and the scientists suggested that the nation should be shut down and people isolated so as not to relay the contagion, argued against a lockdown in order to keep the economy active. He is supposed to have said “let the bodies pile up in their thousands”.
Now, he may have said this or he may not have. Another unsubstantiated anecdote alleges that BoJo claimed his favourite film character was the mayor in Jaws who refused to close the beaches and so allowed the sharks to kill more reckless swimmers and surfers. The truth is that BoJo did hesitate to impose the second lockdown during the epidemic and certainly was against the third. The bodies did, as noted in my first paragraph above, pile up in their thousands. BoJo is of course famous for his sense of choosing the most appropriate joke.
(Wonder what a giggle he’s having over events from and in Gaza?)
The second outrageous statement following this first, comes from the diaries of Sir Patrick Vallance, disclosed to the inquiry. In October 2020, as a debate raged in the government about whether to have a second lockdown, Sir Patrick recorded that Dominic Cummings told Boris Johnson in the meeting: “Rishi says just let people die and that’s okay.”
So, double hearsay -- and on the innocent-until-proven-guilty principle we mustn’t think of Hedgie as the second horseman of the Apocalypse.
What is in the public domain is that Hedgie, when he was chancellor during the Covid-19 epidemic, announced a scheme called “Eat Out to Help Out”. Under this scheme, designed to save the hospitality and restaurant economy, the public’s eating-out bills were subsidised by the government when they ate a meal at a restaurant.
Sir Patrick now says that this scheme was not discussed before it was activated. What he meant and means is that the reckless encouragement to step out and walk into the public environment of a restaurant caused the avoidable spread of the virus and, in his calculations, increased the number of subsequent Covid-19 deaths.
“Eat out to Die out?” Who cares -- we only paid half the bill that lovely Mr Sunoch paid the rest out of taxpayers’ money.
No surprise then that both BoJo and Hedgie say the economy suffered not because of 13 years of Tory financial f-ups but because of the Ukraine war and the “inevitable” Covid-19 lockdowns. There are headbangers in the Tory press who say that lockdowns were not necessary, and they point to Sweden where there were no lockdowns but proportionally fewer deaths through all through the Covid-19 pandemic. That could, of course, simply mean that the Swedish populace are socially responsible and don’t swarm to rock concerts and religious melas.