IT’S spooky how there’s always someone to carry the can or pay for the holiday when you are Boris Johnson.
Those loveable character quirks are pushed to the fore today as the damning 151-page report from MPs into what we have learned from Britain’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis is published just the prime minister happens to be sunning himself at a luxury villa in Marbella on the Costa Del Sol.
This handy and expensive hangout is said to have been provided by his pal Zac Goldsmith, who lost his seat as an MP and was instantly compensated with a comfy berth in the Lords. That seat was the gift of Boris Johnson, and now it seems that a week in the sun is the gift of Zac Goldsmith.
You would be sifting over these little details for a long time before concluding that our democracy is in fine fettle.
The timing of this newest freebie holiday raises a few questions. Was Johnson always going to be away as this report was due to be released? Or did he see the gathering clouds and ask around his rich pals for somewhere sunny to sit out the storm?
There’s always a room free at the You Scratch My Back Villa.
Anyway, that report is almost as important as trying to work out how Johnson always gets away with stuff, and always manages to duck out at an opportune moment.
One minute he was giving his ridiculous right-wing comedy turn at the Conservative party conference; the next he was dashing to the airport. Incidentally, isn’t it lovely the way certain Tories always rumble on about there being no right-wing comedians in this country when they are led by one.
Anyway, that damning report.
This morning’s newspaper headlines were shocking for the government – with the heaviest takeaway being that our early Covid response was “one of the UK’s worst ever public health failures”.
Ministers and scientists are said by the report to have taken a “fatalistic” approach that exacerbated the death toll.
Other criticisms include “groupthink”, evidence of British exceptionalism and a “slow and gradualist” approach that left the UK faring “significantly worse” than other countries.
The cross-party report is titled “Coronavirus: lessons learned to date” and was led by two former Conservative ministers, Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark.
At this point it’s worth remembering that their report was set in motion a year ago in response to Boris Johnson’s preferred official inquiry date of sometime or never.
Have lessons been learned? Well, we’ve learned again that Johnson is unlikely to be around at shit-hitting-fan time, much as he wasn’t around for five Cobra meetings about the looming pandemic because he had other things to do (finalise his divorce, dash off a book about Shakespeare, apparently).
There is praise in the report for how we introduced the vaccine, although our early bragged-about successes seem to have been overtaken by Europe, which is embarrassing for the Brexit evangelists.
Stephen Barclay, who has some third-ranking job or other (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, I just checked), was chosen to do this morning’s round of interviews, chuntering on about “the benefit of hindsight” and saying that we’d stopped the NHS being overwhelmed, when it’s overwhelmed still by Covid, years of cuts and covert privatisation.
Still, at least Boris Johnson got a holiday out of it all.
The Daily Mail, usually a Tory friend, takes the line that the “Elderly were just an afterthought”. While the i newspaper says: “Government delays and blunders ‘killed many thousands’”.
Will any of this make a difference or dent Boris Johnson’s lead in the opinion polls? Will the mounting post-Brexit chaos he caused before negligently lurching into a Covid crisis dent his lead?
Some days it seems that nothing will; some days sitting here and moaning about it all in a blog seems exquisitely pointless.
But there you go.
Some of us get free holidays thanks to the moneyed grace of our friends.
Some of us bash things out on a laptop thanks to not knowing what else to do.