Gaby Hinsliff hits the nail on the head (Boris Johnson’s blame-shifting shows the need for a coronavirus inquiry right now, 9 July). In handling the pandemic, the government has shown incompetence that verges on the criminally negligent. We need to get at the facts before they are hidden and only a public inquiry will do this.
Where Hinsliff is wrong is to talk about a “judge-led” inquiry. It has to be led by an independent expert in biomedical matters. Such a person should be recruited from overseas to be truly independent, and the panel will need a gender-balanced diversity of people in knowledge and ethnicity.
• By calling for a public inquiry covering the last seven months, Gaby Hinsliff is letting the Tories off the hook. Those primarily culpable will merely be called as expert witnesses. Theresa May, Simon Stevens, Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron were all in positions of power vis-a-vis the NHS throughout 2010 to 2019. They ignored the fact that in 2008, a pandemic was placed first on the National Risk Register. They sleepwalked the nation into the greatest peacetime disaster since the flu epidemic at the end of the first world war. The charge sheet is long: running down the NHS, failing to maintain stocks of personal protective equipment, failing to identify risks to care homes. The Tory party is to blame and must be brought to book.
• Your editorial (9 July) is right to propose a parliamentary commission. When a previous government dragged its feet on an Iraq war inquiry, the Commons public administration committee (which I chaired) proposed that parliament should have the ability to establish commissions when governments failed to set up inquiries. This model was used in the wake of the banking crisis, with a parliamentary commission with powers to summon witnesses, and appoint advisers. Such a commission should be established now on the pandemic.
Emeritus professor of government and public policy, University College London