Chris Whitty gives a glimpse into the inevitable post-coronavirus inquiry

The chief medical officer on the issue that many Tory MPs think will define their future.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman\'s Morning Call email.

An area of near-universal consensus at Westminster is that the years after the Covid-19 crisis ends, whenever that is, will be dominated by two things: arguments over how to pay for the extraordinary economic measures deployed by the Treasury, and arguments over the multiple inquiries into the government and other authorities’ handling of the affair.

One reason why it is so likely there will be a fully-fledged independent inquiry is that to hold one is the obvious way for the government to at least draw some of the sting out of the countless, shorter and more limited inquiries that will doubtless by launched by parliament’s select committees, if not preventing them altogether.

Some Conservative MPs even think the government should announce it will hold an inquiry now because, at present, the media is both covering the daily events and trying to conduct the inquiry at the same time. Many MPs think this is bad for the government’s attempt to communicate the public health messages it needs to land.

Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical officer, gave us a small preview of the debate that will likely define both the inquiry and the political repercussions of Covid-19, when he said that the United Kingdom should “learn from” Germany, which scaled up its use of coronavirus tests far faster than the UK has done.

Of course, there are a variety of factors at play. There’s the fact that the UK was one of a small group of countries that started this crisis with an anti-coronavirus strategy that was outside of the medical consensus (of the group, only Sweden is maintaining its original plan). There’s also the fact that the German model of universal healthcare is different to the UK’s, and thus has different strengths and weaknesses. And there are differences in the wider economy.

Some of those might not be factors at all, but those are the big policy questions that will surely dominate the political arguments about the crisis once it is over.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. He also co-hosts the New Statesman podcast.

Free trial CSS