oris Johnson’s decision to delay the public inquiry into coronavirus until spring 2022 is opposed by a clear majority of the public who want it to begin this year instead, an exclusive poll reveals today.
Just 17 per cent of people support the launch date announced by the Prime Minister of next spring, found researchers at Ipsos MORI for the Evening Standard.
But a total of 56 per cent say it should start this summer (backed by 39 per cent) or this autumn (backed by 17 per cent). The independent inquiry will examine alleged errors such as the failure to prevent thousands of deaths among elderly people in care homes.
Conservative MP Dr Dan Poulter urged the Government to think again in the light of the findings, saying: “There is clearly an appetite among the public to press ahead with a public inquiry
In key findings of the survey:
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock is trusted by twice as many people as Dominic Cummings to tell the truth about the Government’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. Some 35 per cent thought Mr Hancock was the most truthful, while 18 per cent preferred Mr Cummings. However, 34 per cent responded “neither”. The findings come on the eve of a public grilling of the Health Secretary who was last month accused by Mr Cummings of lying to the Prime Minister and to the public.
- The Conservative lead over Labour has increased to nine points amid overwhelming public support for the Covid vaccine rollout. The Conservatives are on 44 per cent (up four since April), Labour are reduced to 35 per cent (-2), with the Liberal Democrats squeezed to six (down two points). The greens are up two points to seven per cent.
- Net economic optimism has surged to the highest level since April 2015, with 53 per cent of Britons confident things will improve and only 31 per cent expecting things to get worse.
- Johnson and his Government have positive ratings for their overall handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, marking their first net positive scores since last summer. Johnson is seen to have done well by 43 per cent and badly by 39 per cent, a net score of +4.
- More than eight in 10 Britons think the Government has done a good job at ensuring the public are vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Dr Poulter, who has worked for the NHS in A&E and mental health, said the Government should heed the public mood about the timing of an inquiry.
“Assuming that the immediate threat from Covid is largely under control by the early autumn, I can see no reason to delay starting the inquiry until next year,” he said.
“Given that we are likely to face more pandemics in our lifetime, it is all the more important that we press ahead with the inquiry as soon as possible, so that we can learn lessons about how to be better prepared in the future.”
Ipsos MORI found that public approval of Mr Hancock’s handling of Covid-19 has dropped sharply since he was accused by Mr Cummings of lying. A third (33 per cent) think the Health Secretary has handled the outbreak well, which is down from 38 in April. Some 44 per cent say he has done badly, which is up from 41. The net score of -11 is Mr Hancock’s worst since October.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak continues to enjoy the best ratings for his handling of the pandemic. More than half, 51 per cent, think he has done it well, and just 16 per cent say he handled it badly, a net score of +35.
Ipsos MORI’s director of politics, Keiran Pedley, said: “With their lead over Labour now standing at 9 points, the Conservatives are clearly benefiting politically from the public perception that things are moving in the right direction in terms of the pandemic.
“Britons continue to think the vaccine rollout is going well and economic optimism for the future has not been this strong since just before the 2015 General Election.
“However, there does appear to be appetite for an independent public inquiry into how the government handled the pandemic sooner than the Prime Minister would like. What is less clear is how strong the public demand for an inquiry will be if his government sticks to its guns and seeks to delay into 2022 or beyond.”
Tuesday’s grilling of Mr Hancock by two Commons select committees will focus on one of the most controversial episodes of the pandemic, when elderly people were released from hospitals into care homes without being tested for the disease, a mistake that may have led to thousands of avoidable deaths.
Mr Cummings told the MPs that Mr Hancock should have been fired for “at least 15 to 20 things – including lying to everybody on multiple occasions”. Asked for an example, the former No 10 aide said Mr Hancock falsely assured colleagues that all people discharged from hospital to care homes would be tested. Responding to the allegation yesterday, Mr Hancock insisted: “No, I did not.” The Health Secretary argued that he only promised all would be tested when testing capacity was available.
Ipsos MORI interviewed 1002 adults across GB by phone, from May 28 to June 3. Data are weighted. Details at www.ipsos-mori.com