If WhatsApp messages are the fingerprints of the Covid inquiry’s forensic investigation of the government’s response to the pandemic, then Rishi Sunak’s role has raised numerous questions and controversies.
As the inquiry delves into the chaotic decision-making processes within the government during the pandemic, the absence of incriminating WhatsApp messages from Rishi Sunak has become a focal point. Unlike Boris Johnson, whose candid and sometimes problematic messages have been laid bare, Sunak’s private thoughts and comments during the crisis remain elusive. The lack of evidence regarding Sunak’s involvement is particularly significant given the potential impact on policy and decision-making.
Rishi Sunak’s Testimony
The Prime Minister’s claims of being a “not a prolific user” of WhatsApp and changing his phone multiple times have led to the loss of any relevant messages sent during the peak of the crisis. While Boris Johnson’s messages have provided shocking insights into the government’s operations, Sunak’s lack of digital footprint has brought his actions and involvement into question.
Oral Testimony and Written Statement
With Sunak relying on his written statement and five hours of oral testimony to convey his role in the pandemic, the inquiry’s probe into his actions has become essential. Presenting himself as an advocate for caution in implementing lockdown measures, Sunak’s testimony aligns conveniently with the views of the right-wing faction of his party. However, this narrative has faced compelling scrutiny in contrast to the revelations from Johnson’s messages.
The Unsolved Puzzles
Despite facing scrutiny during his testimony, Sunak’s apparent lack of awareness regarding concerns raised by scientific advisors and government officials remains a puzzling aspect of the inquiry. His non-recollection of events and failure to engage with emails from Treasury officials has raised doubts about the completeness of his testimony.
Evidence of Rule Breaches
While attempting to clarify his actions during the pandemic, Sunak may have inadvertently disclosed potential breaches of lockdown rules. His admission of socializing with the Prime Minister in the No10 garden during weekends, including barbecues, has brought into question the adherence to lockdown restrictions, especially in a period when households were not allowed to mix.
Eat Out To Help Out Controversy
Addressing the controversial introduction of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, Sunak’s decision to implement the policy without prior consultation with scientific advisers and the health secretary has drawn criticism. His attempt to compare the policy to a major fiscal event like a Budget has been met with skepticism, given the significant impact of the scheme on public health.