Matt Hancock’s proof shall be judged by many as a counter-blast to Dominic Cummings’s, and choices about who got here throughout as extra sincere, or extra accountable, will largely rely upon prior assumptions concerning the authorities’s common dealing with of the pandemic.
Cummings’s proof was definitely extra blunt and surprising. Folks are likely to assume that these qualities additionally correlate with honesty, and to his credit score Cummings very not often sounded evasive (aside from when requested about his personal dealings with journalists). However what’s the most blunt/surprising is just not essentially probably the most correct, and Cummings’s tendency to depict everybody in authorities as both a genius or an fool undermined his credibility to an extent for many individuals who had been watching. Hancock in all probability came visiting as much less candid, however a bit extra wise. One key group of observers are undoubtedly going to take his facet; from what Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt (the 2 committee chairs) have stated already, it’s apparent that the ultimate report goes to facet with Hancock (their former cupboard colleague) and never Cummings (their opponent on Brexit) as regards to Hancock’s honesty.
On the substance of what Hancock stated, three issues stand out.
First, the session offered recent proof that, when the inquiry begins, a key authorities technique shall be to “blame the scientists”. Hancock was at his most contrite (or contrite-seeming) this morning when he spoke about how he regretted not difficult extra aggressively what the scientists had been telling him about asymptomatic transmission not being a giant drawback. (See 10.48am.) It gave the impression of an admission of culpability, nevertheless it additionally served as a way of deflecting blame.
Second, on care properties, Hancock offered a brand new argument to justify the shortage of testing that passed off initially when sufferers had been discharged into them from hospitals. Till now he has simply been saying that testing capability was not out there. However this morning he stated clinicians had been additionally towards testing at that time as a result of outcomes might take too lengthy to reach. (See 9.50am.) Arguably this compounds the argument testing was not being prioritised.
Third, though Hancock might have sounded a extra affordable witness than Cummings, there have been nonetheless a number of moments when he sounded lower than 100% convincing. For instance, on PPE shortages, is it actually that clever to rely a lot on that one line in an NAO report? (See 1.18pm.) Does he actually consider the briefing he’s had that no well being or social care staff died due to PPE shortages? (See 12.48pm.) One other piece of presidency analysis on care dwelling deaths was efficiently rubbished by Clark. (See 11.32am.)
Maybe the clearest instance of Hancock’s refusal to completely withstand what was taking place got here when he was questioned by Barbara Keeley about individuals dying unnecessarily. Hancock maintains individuals all the time did get the remedy they wanted. (Cummings stated this was certainly one of Hancock’s lies.) When Keeley gave examples of this not being the case, due to the usage of “don’t resuscitate” notices, Hancock insisted he intervened to place a cease to it. (See 12.03pm.) However performing to stop a unsuitable is just not proof that that unsuitable by no means occurred within the first place; the truth is, it’s the other. By the point the inquiry comes alongside, Hancock will in all probability want higher solutions on these factors.