William Wragg – 2020 Speech on Covid-19

Below is the text of the speech made by William Wragg, the Conservative MP for Hazel Grove, in the House of Commons on 11 May 2020.

When the public inquiry reports after being able to properly consider these events, there will be an almost irresistible urge to blame. That can only be natural, for we will as a nation feel grief—grief for those we have lost, grief for the things we have hitherto taken for granted, and grief for lost futures. The inquiry will demand papers, examine plans, ask awkward questions and reveal uncomfortable truths. There will be admissions, denials and rebuttals, claim and counterclaim, good days for some, bad days for others. There will be tales of heroism, and records of blunder. There will be examples of those who did not make reply, those who should have perhaps reasoned why, and, above it all, the lingering ghosts of those who simply did and died.

The findings of the inquiry will not be phrased poetically. They will be categoric. I will wait for them and accept them, and we will all learn from them. The findings will put aside examples of hindsight-itis, which grow as the real pandemic subsides. Those who say they do not wish to play politics but then subtly do so will be able to deal in the facts, rather than propagate speculation. We will know who knew what and when, from whence this virus came, and myriad hows and whys will find their answer. We know it on reasonable authority that judgment is never quite so harsh upon the admission of responsibility, but perhaps most painfully of all there may be some answers we may never know.

There are some people for whom our Prime Minister will never do anything right, but he is the Prime Minister and they are not. He knows that to govern is to choose. There are invidious choices ahead, and we need the Government to be fully engaged with the concerns and suggestions of wider society. They must also be engaged with this House, and I am sorry to say that this format of a virtual Parliament does not allow for it. As we ask our constituents to return to their place of work, with understandable anxieties and adaptations, so we must lead by example and return to ours.

Through effective scrutiny we will get better government, for there are many candid friends of the Government in this House who want them to succeed on behalf of our entire nation. However, just as the Prime Minister and Ministers must exercise their judgment carefully and clearly, it is also for everyone to play a part in exercising our judgment, rather than entirely abdicating responsibility to the state. Although the state intervention has been great and necessary, it will be our individual patience, good sense and, above all, humanity that will see us through.

Much has been made of the slogan used to convey the Government’s message. Supposedly clever people scoff and feign confusion. Well, we can argue about this weekend’s communication strategy and wish it were better, but ultimately we must have greater confidence in the judgment of the public.