By Niall Dooris
The Inquiry into the handling of the Covid 19 pandemic was officially launched in June after being originally commissioned by Boris Johnson in May 2021, it is set to last another 3 years. The claim is that the government will be held accountable for the handling of the pandemic response ,which resulted in more than 226,000 deaths in the UK and over a million people suffering from long covid, by a panel that it appointed itself. However the result of previous high profile enquiries indicate otherwise.
There were inquiries for the Iraq War, Bloody Sunday, the Grenfell Disaster and more, in none of these cases did it ever lead to the government “learning lessons for the future” or to real consequences of the criminal actions of those involved in these incidents. This is because inquiries are used as an illusion of accountability by governments at a time of crisis as a way to take pressure of themselves with the promise of clarity years in the future when the controversy has died down. In the case of this inquiry the current government and Boris Johnson are even refusing to cooperate with the inquiry that it commissioned and appointed the panel on. The fear of the leading tories is that handing over text messages of the members of the cabinet at the time will expose how they handled the pandemic and lay bare their contempt for the public. This would include messages from the current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who was chancellor at the time, he was one of the strongest opponents to lockdowns and championed the “eat out to help out” campaign which undoubtedly contributed to excess deaths.
We’re not in this together- Capitalism is the issue
The most the inquiry will reveal will be individual wrongdoing and incompetence of the former cabinet. The list of examples that point to this are too vast to ignore from late lockdowns to cronyism in handing out PPE contracts and the notorious PartyGate scandal in Downing street. However, this would ignore the root of the failure which is the essential need to put profit over human lives under a capitalist system. Deaths may have been particularly high in the UK but the failure to deal with the crisis in the interest of the vast majority of society was a global trend. The policies taken by the government that lead to excess deaths were not mistakes, they were deliberate attempts to protect the profits of the rich they represent. It was no coincidence that the number of billionaires grew by 20%, each with a median holding of £2 Billion, while workers faced real terms pay cuts and dramatically rising prices. In fact, NHS workers were offered a ridiculous 1% pay rise after carrying us through the pandemic in a chronically underfunded collapsing health service. They, like many workers, were forced onto the picket lines to fight simply for a wage that will allow them to survive with many health workers using food banks or claiming benefits to get by.
Matt Hancock admitted at the inquiry that the pandemic response was focused on dealing with the consequences “do we have enough body bags? where do we bury the dead?” rather than prevention. That would have involved measures that dramatically affect the profits of the ruling class such as long term public investment in public health, the government has spent the last decade doing the opposite destroying the NHS through its austerity policies. We can see who’s interests society is run under crises like the pandemic expose this even more clearly. The Covid inquiry even if it reveals the truth will not result in a government that is less willing to sacrifice working class people at the altar of profit. For this to happen society needs to be fundamentally transformed along socialist lines so that society is run in a truly democratic way in the interests of all.