AT SOME point before (and possibly long before) the Diamond Princess sailed into our consciousness like some ghost ship with its quarantined cargo of elderly cruise-goers, something unthinkably odd was taking place.
Wherever you have been getting Covid-related information apart from the official and media channels over the last three years, the same litany of questions concerning the who, the why and the how will inevitably apply. As month succeeds month and new credible but unapproved information emerges, it feels increasingly as though the house of cards must be on the verge of collapse.
And yet as the Hallett Inquiry reaches the 18-month mark since its inception, its complacent and self-satisfied machinery grinds inexorably on at a cost to the taxpayer passing £100million around now, and there is no obvious sign that the expert applecart is about to lose a wheel.
In the current module, if you’re following things closely, you will have noticed that witness after witness has claimed that theirs was the lone voice calling for an earlier first UK lockdown than anyone else, rather like the Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen sketch.
The inquiry treats these witnesses with deference and respect. The sleek and excellently tailored KC, head slightly cocked and casually bowed over his raised desk, hair gently thinning as befits a careworn but highly esteemed barrister, asks favoured witnesses for a formal acknowledgement of oh-so-many accreditations and professorial gongs.
The chair, bless, thanks the witnesses for their contributions and – was that a slight catch in the throat? – expresses gratitude on behalf of the nation for their selfless endeavours in preventing worse things that would have happened but for their heroic interventions.
So far, so predictable, but here’s the thing or perhaps a couple of things.
The Science, as we have all been taught, can be settled and this applies to any and every field where questioning and debate by dissidents or the inquisitive is unwelcome. The assumption in official and media circles since early in 2020 is that The Narrative can also be settled, specifically The Narrative surrounding the effectiveness of lockdowns and the safety and effectiveness of experimental gene therapy masquerading as vaccination.
On the whole, though, The Narrative is a more delicate plant than The Science because anyone can influence the narrative, even unwittingly by inconveniently dying, whereas The Science is the preserve of the anointed. The Narrative is more susceptible to rapid change than The Science. The Science is Keep off the Grass while The Narrative quickly becomes a well-trodden public footpath.
That being so, and given that Lady Hallett, her KCs and the supporting banks of bored people on computers in the background are likely to syphon off a further £100million-plus from the despoiled public purse until 2026, the chances are that by then The Narrative may have shifted to leave Lady Hallett and the rest of them high and dry on a set of discredited assumptions that are already looking wobbly in 2023.
The inquiry has established that Matt Hancock should not have delayed his television career so long, and that the experts bamboozled Boris Johnson, which is a failing on Johnson’s part (too dense to understand) rather than that of the experts. (Sir Patrick Vallance said in his evidence that the science had bamboozled Johnson. What we can readily believe is that they did their best to confuse him. A game of Blind Man’s Buff with Boris blindfolded and the experts spinning him round to make him dizzy! It worked.)
It has been carved into stone that Neil Ferguson is very good at making predictions without commenting on how accurate his predictions have been, or on whether a priapic rule-breaker deserves praise.
What if The Narrativechanges in the year ahead? Perhaps it will need only a slight twist of the kaleidoscope through which the country views its last three years to produce an entirely different interpretation of past events and their causes?
Perhaps this is the most fascinating thing about the inquiry: the way it is explicitly committing itself to a storyline that could very rapidly dissolve and find itself instead complicit in an evil which it is busy coating in whitewash.
What if experts deliberately bamboozled (is the choice of that word a slip?) the then prime minister?
And even if The Narrative is propped and reinforced so that it still stands teetering when Lady Hallett eventually publishes her report, what then?
So much of what has been given in evidence is flatly contradicted by what the witnesses are on the record as having previously done and said. There is a welter of evidence and of transcripts which will allow for any amount of pushback from all the injured seeking redress in one form or another for decades to come as The Science mutates to reflect reality.
It’s the self-confidence and arrogance of the Hallett Inquiry’s main actors and walk-ons which is so startling. Learned urbanity and dolly questions put to friends of The Narrative or studied rudeness to the bad guys is far from what the public expects for its £200million, and it certainly doesn’t form the basis of an inquiry.