OF ALL THE TRULY bizarre suggestions to come out of the recent no-confidence vote in the prime minister the most ridiculous has to be the proposition that Boris Johnson should build bridges with the critics in his party by making former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt his Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Jeremy Hunt was Britain’s longest serving Health Secretary of some six years (2012-18) and in that time was responsible for preparing the country’s pandemic defences. He got that wrong. By his own admission, he left us with our defences down by preparing for a flu-type pandemic and not giving enough consideration to a Sars-Covid type pandemic. In the end the Government abandoned the protocols in place and opted for lockdowns instead. An appropriate pandemic plan could have avoided that – but Hunt and his successor Matt Hancock did not prepare one. This must at least raise questions as to his competence and judgement.
Ministers all make mistakes, however, but again by Hunt’s own words we now know that he not only supported lockdowns consistently over 2020 but that he wanted them “harder and faster”. We now also know he was attracted to the idea of quarantining individuals who tested positive by adopting the Chinese method of taking people from their homes and putting them in quarantine hotels or camps. He picked up on this idea from his sister who visited China and had told him about it, believing a similar zero-Covid approach should be applied in the UK.
We have written about Jeremy Hunt on this blog before – you can read it here – and we shall no doubt have cause to write about him again once the Covid Public Inquiry begins and, as Chairman of the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee, he makes a submission of evidence that we will review.
Already his pronouncements in the past – that he would have avoided lockdowns if he had been prime minister – by instigating an efficient test and trace system – have been shown to be disingenuous. He actually called for harsher lockdowns, while there is plenty of evidence to suggest his test and trace approach would have achieved little.
From the get-go, the test and trace used for the spreading of Covid-19 at the Nike conference in Edinburgh during 25-27th February 2020 failed with some people attending the event not being contacted. Indeed the outbreak was kept secret, with English health authorities unaware of participants bringing Covid into Wearside as a result of attending – until the employers alerted them.)
The Conservative Government and its opposition lockdown cheerleaders have many questions to answer at the inquiry. Bringing politicians into government who have consistently shown that they would only have made the lockdowns harder, faster and longer adds insult to egregious injury.
We shall not forget.
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Brian Monteith is a former member of the Scottish and European Parliaments and managing editor of the Recovery blog.
Photo from an Observer interview of 24 January 2021 where Jeremy Hunt backed calls for FFP2 standard masks being mandated for public transport and shops saying, “Last time we waited too long before requiring masks, let’s not make the same mistake again” and wanted a review of the 2m social distancing rule as possibly inadequate.