Covid: As Boris Johnson's handling of pandemic is condemned as a disaster by Dominic Cummings, we need a public inquiry and quickly – Ian Murray MP

“Disastrously short.” That is the verdict from the PM’s once-trusted sidekick, Dominic Cummings, on the decisions taken by government ministers, officials and advisers as the coronavirus pandemic first gripped the UK.

By Ian Murray
Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 4:45 pm
Boris Johnson's former special adviser Dominic Cummings gives evidence to an MPs' committee (Picture: handout/PRU/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's former special adviser Dominic Cummings gives evidence to an MPs' committee (Picture: handout/PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

Given Cummings was guilty of an egregious breach of the rules himself, he knows a thing or two about dreadful decisions.

“When the public needed us the most, the government failed,” he admitted to MPs yesterday, adding that “in hindsight” there are a lot of actions which should have happened sooner.

It was a damning evidence session that exposed the country’s catastrophic leadership.

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It’s an easy excuse to say things would have happened differently in hindsight. In reality there were a series of official exercises before Covid-19 struck to test the UK and Scotland’s readiness for a major outbreak. Serious concerns were raised, including about PPE supplies and care homes. Everything was ignored.

So governments – both in Westminster and Holyrood – should have been prepared.

And then a litany of mistakes were made, with the ultimate decision to lockdown the UK coming too late. Thousands of lives were lost as a result of delay and dithering.

Simply dismissing the failings as "focusing on the rear-view mirror”, as Boris Johnson suggested in PMQs yesterday, is an insult to all those still mourning loved ones. There are 130,000 lives in his rear view mirror.

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We need to get to the bottom of what went so catastrophically wrong not only to ensure mistakes aren’t made again in the future, but because we owe it to those who lost their lives.

The Covid public inquiry should be brought forward to this summer.

It can’t be kicked into the long grass, as Johnson wants in the hope that its findings will come so late that the country has moved on. Because those grieving cannot move on.

At least Cummings apologised yesterday, the PM will not.

And unlike SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford who yesterday went on the attack during PMQs over the UK government’s failings, the SNP should get its own house in order before throwing stones.

The exact same mistakes made in Westminster were also made in Holyrood but, as they admit themselves, with better PR.

There was the cover-up of the outbreak in Edinburgh from the Nike conference, and then, unforgivably, the decision to move patients who hadn’t been tested or had tested positive for Covid from hospitals into care homes.

If Blackford had any decency, he would have apologised yesterday on behalf of his SNP government.

Scotland deserves better than two failing governments who simply blame each other for their mistakes.

The Covid public inquiry must not only happen sooner, it must encompass the grave and identical errors made north and south of the Border. While answers must be provided, the government’s overriding priority must be the recovery.

More than 10,000 Scots have lost their lives and 300,000 are still stuck on furlough, not knowing if they have a job to return to.

The SNP and Tories must not combine to drag us back to old arguments and divisions whilst whitewashing the Covid public inquiry.

Scottish Labour under Anas Sarwar is solely committed to building a fairer Scotland from Covid recovery. We can do that and learn the hard lessons from Covid.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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