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The bad taste question about Covid that everyone in Westminster is asking

6 239 146
31.01.2021

A Conservative party donor, talking to the Financial Times, is bullish that Boris Johnson will get a “vaccine bounce”. This Tory moneybags spoke anonymously. For it sounds in profoundly bad taste to be discussing political advantage when the UK has just passed the sombre milestone of more than 100,000 deaths from the pandemic. Anyone who has lost a loved one will not like to hear that politicians and their backers are conjecturing that the vaccination programme will be a shot in the arm for the prime minister’s popularity. The hard truth is that lots of Tories are privately talking about it. And so are their opponents.

Not for the first time, and almost certainly not for the last, Mr Johnson has resisted demands for the establishment of a public inquiry into his government’s handling of the crisis. He had to acknowledge that there would be “a time when we must learn the lessons of what has happened”, but “I do not think that moment is now”. For him, there never will be a good time for a full and independent audit of his government’s frequently disastrous performance. Any public inquiry worthy of the name is most unlikely to agree with his claim that “we truly did everything we could”.

Even senior Tories agree that there will have to be some kind of “reckoning”, as one puts it, for why the UK has the highest death toll in Europe and one of the worst mortality rates in the world while simultaneously suffering a more severe economic hit than any other country in the G7 group of prosperous states.

Politically speaking, the most dangerous stretch of the crisis for the Tory leader was last autumn when he and his ministers lurched from fiasco to U-turn to farrago in a sequence of calamities so awful that even Johnson loyalists were wondering how much longer he could cling to Number 10. Senior Tories despaired that the government’s performance was so terrible that it would irreparably shatter public faith in their competence. The Spectator published a front cover demanding “Where’s Boris?”, accompanied by a cartoon depicting its former editor alone in an oarless boat on a heaving sea. Other erstwhile cheerleaders in the rightwing press turned on him. It wasn’t hard to find Tory MPs who........

© The Guardian


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