There is something therapeutic and healing in watching Professor Chris Whitty give evidence to the independent public inquiry into the Covid pandemic – the sense of calm emanating from the man, his occasionally Panglossian self-satisfaction, his refusal to become anything more than barely ruffled even when his interlocuters gently venture forth the suggestion: ‘Overreaction?’ The impression one gets, or perhaps is supposed to get, is of a very clever, terribly rational man in a world full of thicko scumbags.
I watch a little daytime TV at the moment as part of my rest and recuperation programme following that car crash I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. More usually it is one of the quiz shows, such as Tipping Point, where the contestants are from the very opposite end of the intellectual scale to Chris and can only enrage with their stupidity. No, Shenille – sadly, Tony Blair was not prime minister at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar. Listening to Whitty’s comforting emollience, I can almost feel my hitherto distraught muscles knitting back together, repairing themselves, filling with blood and blooming. He is like a very expensive balm.
What we learn from this inquiry – that the scientists are convinced we should have imposed lockdown earlier and harder, for example – is maybe less interesting than what one might read between the lines. Or, as those scientists would disdainfully put it, speculation. The first and most obvious thing is the withering contempt in which the scientists held the politicians, which must surely have made the management of the pandemic more problematic than it needed to be.
We can infer this from the testimony of the former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, for example.