Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Johnson getting bitten by his own decisions


Given Boris Johnson’s long-standing propensity neither to pay much attention to detail nor to think through the consequences of any decision he takes, it was probably inevitable that the remit he himself gave to the Covid inquiry, and the decision on who should lead it would come back to bite him on his backside. ‘Seat-of-the-pants’ government is rarely going to be consequence free, but a man who has talked, or rather lied, his way out of every scrape he’s ever been in was hardly going to start giving careful thought to the remit, the role, or the personnel involved in the inquiry. The fact that he believed – and appears still to believe – that his handling of Covid was an unqualified success would hardly have encouraged him to do so either. It is a lack of care and attention which is now threatening a situation where the government ends up taking its own inquiry to court to avoid releasing documents. Or facing fines and a jail term for refusing to hand over the documents which the inquiry says it needs. Comic opera would be an overly kind description. It would make for an interesting court case, although publicly-expressed legal opinion to date seems to be near-unanimous that it’s a case which the government is destined to lose.

In principle, the demand that documents which are ‘unambiguously irrelevant’ to the inquiry should not need to be handed over is not entirely unreasonable, but the question which that raises is about who decides what is relevant or not, and on what basis, especially given the current government’s record of hiding anything which might be embarrassing to them. It’s doubtful that anyone would expect that all other aspects of government should have come to a complete stop so that ministers would concentrate 100% of their time and effort on dealing with the pandemic. However, although discussions on policy in areas unrelated to Covid might appear to be irrelevant in themselves, if a substantial proportion of ministerial time was being diverted from dealing with the pandemic to trivial issues of detail in other fields, for example, that could well have impeded the proper handling of the pandemic, and the apparently irrelevant becomes relevant. It would also give an insight into how seriously the government was taking the threat. It’s a judgement which only the inquiry itself is in a position to make – and one which, indeed, the inquiry must make. The extent to which government paid the appropriate amount of attention to the pandemic goes to the heart of what the inquiry was set up to determine. The fact that documentation is handed over to the inquiry chair doesn’t necessarily mean that all of that documentation must therefore become public; it’s perfectly possible for the two sides to agree, after reviewing the evidence, which parts should be redacted or omitted from any public reports, but allowing those who are being investigated to determine what is or is not relevant would be a severe restriction on the ability of the inquiry to reach a considered opinion. The government’s unwillingness to engage in such a process raises the obvious question – what have they got to hide?


dafis said...

The answer to your final rhetorical question is that quite simply most of those who were in positions of responsibility and accountability have something to hide. Not necessarily about criminality of which there were evident bouts, but more about the unwillingness to admit mistakes at tactical and strategic levels. The "we wuz always right" syndrome remains a dominant feature of their stance. Until that gets demolished we will never know the real truth. To a lesser extent a similar problem exists here in Wales.

An Eye On... said...


Spirit of BME said...

You outline very well the problems with this inquiry and to this The Boy Johnson has added a further dimension to make a statement that he is on the side of’ truth and openness’?? however, It must be remembered that millions of people tuned into the covid briefings and did believe and complied with everything that he said.
HMG position is not a simple one of asking to find the truth, many people died, we spent billions that will take generations to pay off and people’s jobs, pensions and wealth were devastated. While HMG ministers will seek lifetime indemnity from the law, many others acted to fire people if they did not comply with the regulations will find lawyers lining up to take them to court for breach of their human rights. The bill could be in the billions and HMG cannot allow that to happen, so they will want the conclusion to state that what happened was good, but in parts could have been done better and money was well spent most of the time on the right things – so nothing to see here.
HM Loyal Opposition will also buy into this as they were ‘missing in action’ and were seeking longer and harder lockdowns.