Rishi Sunak has criticised the government’s response to Covid – suggesting that independent scientific advisers have too much power.
Pandemic Prime Minister Mr Sunak says audience magazine There has not been enough discussion about the negative effects of the lockdown.
He said he felt “emotional” when he advocated for England’s schools to remain open.
Downing Street said the economy and education had been “central” considerations in decision-making.
In the interview, Mr Sunak also condemned campaign posters showing Covid-19 patients on ventilators, saying it was “wrong” to “scare people”.
His comments come as the Conservative leadership campaign enters its final days, with results due on September 5.
The winner of the race – Mr Sunak or Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – will replace Boris Johnson as Conservative leader and prime minister.
During the campaign, both candidates tried to highlight areas of government they disagreed with, with Ms Truss saying she opposed the rise of state insurance.
As Prime Minister from February 2020 to July 2022, Mr Sunak played a key role in the government’s response to the coronavirus, including developing a furlough scheme and a meal-out help scheme.
Speaking to the audience, Mr Sunak insisted he did not want to blame individuals but said he believed ministers had made a series of mistakes during the pandemic.
He said ministers had not been given enough information to consider the analysis by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) – an independent group of experts that advises the government.
“We shouldn’t hold scientists accountable as we used to,” he reportedly said.
Mr Sunak said ministers should talk more about what he called the “trade-offs” of the lockdown, such as the NHS backlog and the impact on children’s education.
“The Great Quiet”
“The situation was that they would never be recognized. The situation was: Oh, no compromise, because it’s good for our health and it’s good for the economy.
“These meetings are actually me at this table, just fighting. It’s uncomfortable every time.
“I was like, ‘Forget about the economy — of course, we all agree that it’s a nightmare for kids to drop out of school.’ There was a huge silence. It was the first time anyone had said that. I was furious. »
a bit late?
This is not the first time Rishi Sunak has expressed concern about his government’s handling of the pandemic.
He said he returned from California early in the leadership campaign, when the Omicron variant was spreading rapidly to thwart Covid lockdowns.
But in an interview with The Spectator, he went further, denouncing the entire approach of the administration he served — what he called a “narrative of fear.”
That means he, not his Conservative leadership opponents, has raised tough questions about scientific advice.
Of course, Liz Truss at the time didn’t have a national portfolio and wouldn’t be participating in the many Covid meetings that take place between full cabinet meetings.
Mr Sunak’s team insisted it was not a planned intervention in the leadership contest – just that the audience wanted to ask questions about the lockdown.
They said the point he made was not about going after the past.
Instead, it’s to underscore what he would do differently in government – more accountability and ministers giving the information they need.
However, the concerns he expressed in the interview – about school closures, NHS backlogs and the economic impact of the pandemic – are likely to be shared by a significant portion of Tory members.
But he is only 10 days away, and it may be too late to forge new fronts in the leadership battle.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Throughout the pandemic, public health, education and the economy have been at the heart of difficult decisions to limit coronavirus restrictions to protect the British public from an unprecedented new virus.
“At all times, the collective decisions of ministers take into account the wide range of expert advice available at the time to protect public health. »
There has been a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic, with public hearings set to begin next year.
A report by MPs last year said Britain should have acted earlier at the start of the pandemic to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Mr Sunak and Ms Truss will be in Norwich on Thursday night for a campaign for members of the Conservative Party.
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article Conservative leadership: Rishi Sunak slams Covid lockdown response first appeared in Zimo News.