Politics Hub live: Rishi Sunak facing COVID inquiry after ‘Dr Death’ claim – as he tries to
Rishi Sunak is associated with two key policies during the pandemic which he is likely to be grilled about at the COVID inquiry today.
One is furlough – the scheme which propped up the jobs of some 12 million employed and self-employed people. When he announced it in March 2020, it was for many people, the first time they had noticed the brand-new chancellor, who had been in post for just a month.
That scheme was regarded as a huge success. But less so, is the second policy he was the architect of – Eat Out to Help Out, a scheme launched in August 2020 to subsidise meals out to help the hard- hit hospitality sector.
While the Treasury saw it as a way to give restaurants – and their largely young, low-paid staff – a boost after a tough few months; the scheme has been widely criticised at the inquiry.
Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, was revealed to have called it “Eat Out to Help the virus”. Another government scientist, Angela McLean, now the government’s chief scientific adviser, called Sunak “Dr Death” in emails at the time.
The top scientists told the inquiry they were never consulted about the scheme.
Sunak – who has been cramming for this appearance – set out last summer in an article for the right-leaning Spectator magazine how he felt the trade-offs of lockdown had not been sufficiently considered.
He will face tough questions about whether the consequences of his own and the Treasury’s actions were thought through.
We may also get an insight into Sunak’s relationship with Boris Johnson during the pandemic, an uncomfortable prospect, given he has tried to distance himself from his predecessor.