Good morning. On Tuesday morning, following the publication of a parliamentary report describing the government’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic was one of the worst public health failures in UK history, the minister doing the morning interview round on behalf of No 10, Steve Barclay, refused to apologise. It did not look good, and since then the line has changed. Oliver Dowden, the Conservative party co-chair, did say sorry on Wednesday, and Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has been using the same language in his interview round on Thursday. This is what he told the Today programme:
I am sorry for anyone that’s been hurt throughout this pandemic, and especially those people that would have lost their their loved ones, their brother or sister, or mum or dad, perhaps a close friend, and also those people that may not have lost their lives but they’re still suffering with long Covid, which is something I’m particularly concerned about. Of course I’m sorry about that.
But saying you are sorry about something is not an actual apology, which requires you to say you are sorry for something you did, and this was made clear when Today’s Martha Kearney asked Javid to explain what he was apologising for. Astonishingly, Javid could not say what lessons the government has learned from the Covid pandemic. This is how the exchange went.
MK: So what are the mistakes you are apologising for?
SJ: I’m always very straightforward with you Martha. I don’t know all the lessons that we are going to have to learn about this. I don’t think anyone does at this point. I think the best place to determine this will be the independent public inquiry.
MK: That’s going to a while off. You are health secretary now and you are prepared to offer an apology. So what is it you think the government got wrong?
SJ: What I’m what I’m saying sorry for is the loss that people have suffered and how they’ve been affected. I don’t think I’m in a position yet to go back and look at every decision that was made and how we can learn from that.
My focus so far, I think most people understand this, has been to try and focus on how we can keep the virus at bay, how we can deal deal with that massive backlog in elective care and how we can make the reforms that are necessary for the future.
This is surprising because there is near consensus in the medical and scientific community about multiple lessons that can clearly be learnt from the government’s handling of the pandemic. A good starting point was the report published on Tuesday (which was not over-harsh on the government), although Javid also told Today he had not read it in full yet.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The latest NHS England waiting time figures are published.
Around 9.30am: Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, speaks to the Royal College of General Practitioners’ annual conference.
10am: Lord Goldsmith, the environment minister, gives evidence to a Lords committee about the contributions being made by government departments to the success of Cop26.
11.30am: Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, is expected to respond to a private notice question in the Lords about the Northern Ireland protocol.
12pm: Peers debate the problems facing social care.
And Sir Keir Starmer is on a visit to a steel plant today to highlight the problems faced by energy intensive industries.
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