On Wednesday 12 May, Private Eye shared the story of Boris Johnson having an unpaid debt. But it also pointed to another damning fact. The timing is pertinent. Because Johnson has just announced a public inquiry into his government’s handling of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. And Private Eye‘s figures should be central to it.
Bailiffs knocking on 10 Downing Street’s door?
As PA reported, Johnson has an outstanding court judgment for a debt of £535. A search of the database shows the “unsatisfied record” registered to the prime minister at “10 Downing Street”. The date of the judgment, which was first revealed by Private Eye magazine, is October 26 last year. The official court records do not state who the creditor is, nor the nature of the debt.
But £535 wasn’t the only figure Private Eye revealed in its latest issue.
As one Twitter user shared:
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— Pickles U Fat Get (@torysmasher) May 12, 2021
The figure show that the UK’s coronavirus death rate (191 per 100,000 people) is significantly higher than India’s (17 per 100,000 people). This shouldn’t detract from the current catastrophe that’s unfolded in India, but the UK’s horrific death rate should be central to the just-announced public inquiry. But will it be?
The public inquiry is here
As PA also reported, Johnson announced the government will set up an independent public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. It will have statutory (legal) powers. The PM told MPs the inquiry will begin in spring 2022. He said it will place “the state’s actions under the microscope”.
PA reported that Johnson said:
Amid such tragedy the state has an obligation to examine its actions as rigorously and as candidly as possible, and to learn every lesson for the future – which is why I’ve always said when the time is right there should be a full and independent inquiry.
So, I can confirm today that the Government will establish an independent public inquiry on a statutory basis, with full powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 – including the ability to compel the production of all relevant materials and take oral evidence in public under oath.
But reaction to Johnson’s announcement has been mixed.
Labour leader Keir Starmer asked the PM why the inquiry couldn’t start “later this year”. Over on Twitter, some people thought they knew the answer:
The average public inquiry lasts two and a half years. This one will surely last longer.
So by starting it in spring 2022, Johnson effectively ensures it does not report until after the next election
— Chris Smyth (@Smyth_Chris) May 12, 2021
– Inquiry starts in a year
– Takes at least a year
– Then govt sits on it for a year
– Then we have an election
– And then it's published
I've seen this show beforehttps://t.co/AFDm910LlW
— Russ Jones (@RussInCheshire) May 12, 2021
Not having an inquiry until spring 2022 while also getting rid of the Fixed Term Parliament Act 🧐
— Alexander Brown (@AlexofBrown) May 12, 2021
Meanwhile, the group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK said in a statement:
It’s a huge relief to hear the Prime Minister commit to the statutory inquiry that bereaved families have been calling for – one with the power to compel witnesses.
But there are still further steps needed to ensure we all get the answers we need as a country.
First and foremost, any inquiry must involve bereaved families from the start, helping to choose the chair as well as determining the terms of reference.
Whilst we welcome the Prime Minister’s assurances that bereaved families will be consulted on this, the devil will be in the detail.
Secondly, Spring 2022 is simply too late to begin.
It sounds like common sense when the Prime Minister says that an inquiry can wait until the pandemic is over, but lives are at stake with health experts and scientists warning of a third wave later this year.
A rapid review in summer 2020 could have saved our loved ones who died in the second wave in winter.
We are ready to meet the Government to start this dialogue right away and preparations must begin immediately.
A “pile of lies & deceit”?
So, with the PM kicking an inquiry into the long grass and the potential of a general election before it finishes – what hope is there for proper recourse over the government’s pandemic response? As Kerry summed up on Twitter:
Spring 2022 Johnson will allow an inquiry in to the covid pandemic handling
That should give him enough time to hide the evidence of when he #letthebodiespilehigh
— kerry ✊💙 (@hewitson10) May 12, 2021
Whether or not the truth about the Tories’ handling of coronavirus will ever come to light is no nearer being resolved – public inquiry or not.
Additional reporting and featured image via PA
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