Ross Clark Ross Clark

Expectations are low for Boris Johnson at the Covid inquiry

Boris Johnson arrives at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry (Credit: Getty images)

Boris Johnson will be led into the Covid inquiry this morning like a condemned man. We have all seen enough of this inquiry to know the line of questioning he will receive: one that will try to portray him as a bumbling fool who rejected scientific advice to lock down, killing many thousands of people in the process. He will also be presented as a callous individual who allegedly said it didn’t matter if elderly people died because they had had their time. Johnson’s enemies will just regret that Brexit can’t be added to the list of charges against him.

With expectations so low, it is only natural that he will over-deliver, reminding people of the great communicator he is and why he once enjoyed mass popularity. If he does as he is reportedly planning to, and starts asking the inquiry why it is not looking into the harms caused by lockdowns he will be doing the country a big favour. 

There will be few consequences for Johnson, however he performs, because he is no longer in office

In doing so, Boris would be explaining why, by implication, he was so reluctant to close schools and enforce social distancing through legal sanctions. The evidence of the harm caused by lockdown is steadily stacking up and it is a disgrace that, so far, the inquiry has not bothered to investigate this. The effect on children’s maths abilities, which came to light in yesterday’s published Pisa scores, is the latest such evidence.      

Johnson can’t let himself off the hook, though. He was, after all, prime minister at the time and could have insisted that a proper cost-benefit analysis of lockdown was carried out before it was imposed. True, he was under great pressure to call a lockdown from 16 March 2020 onwards, but then great leaders are supposed to be able to withstand pressure.

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