When the pressure is on to answer awkward questions at a time when there are many other pressing concerns to be dealt with, the temptation for a hard-pressed Prime Minister is to take the pressure off by putting the whole issue into a box which can be opened at leisure later -by announcing an official independent inquiry.
But it is, more often than not, a dreadful mistake. The short-term relief is bought at the expense of a prolonged nightmare. The government loses any control of the agenda as the inquiry meanders wherever it chooses, clocking-up ever greater expense.
The Covid Enquiry is doing exactly that. So far it has cost £100 million. The lawyers are laughing all the way to the bank. The rest of us can enjoy mild titillation, or despair, depending on our predisposition, as we are treated to what often appears as an episode of In The Thick of It, revealing who despised whom, and the fruity language they used to express it.
None of this addresses the they key issue that is of interest: why did the Government abandon the pandemic plan, previously war-gamed and rehearsed, and instead follow the herd of other nations by locking-down the entire country both socially and economically?
The Inquiry would, ideally, come up with a cost/benefit analysis and conclude that either the Government got it right or that it imposed a cure that was, in its unforeseen consequences, worse than the disease.
The Inquiry has already revealed a prejudice in favour of lock-downs and I doubt that anything of value is now going to emerge from its further deliberations. And it’s going to cost a bomb. Its time to pull the plug and close down this farrago nonsense with immediate effect.