'Covid memorial won't excuse Johnson from scrutiny of his decisions in crisis'

The Prime Minister would rather turn the focus to a victims’ memorial, says Paul Routledge

PM Boris Johnson is kicking the Covid inquiry down the road

What should come first: a victims’ memorial or a public inquiry into the pandemic?

Boris Johnson has no doubt. To avoid political embarrassment, the inquiry must wait at least another year.

But his favourite architect, Thomas Heatherwick, is already talking behind the scenes to ministers about a memorial in St Paul’s.

He designed Bojo’s pet project, the ill-fated Garden Bridge over the Thames, costing the taxpayer £43million even though it was never built.

Newly released records show that Heatherwick met Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith earlier this year to discuss the proposed monument.

In May, the PM promised a commission on Covid commemoration, with a ­memorial in St Paul’s as “a fitting place of reflection in the heart of our capital”.

It would not surprise me if Heatherwick is chosen to design it. His relationship with Johnson goes back a long way.

In 2013, the then London Mayor invited him to a meeting in San Francisco to win sponsorship for the pointless Garden Bridge.

The 51-year-old creator of the 2012 Olympic cauldron subsequently won the public competition to design the bridge, prompting criticism that his involvement before the contest was unfair.

But whoever wins this prestigious commission, it looks like they will be at work long before the public inquiry puts Johnson in the dock over his deceitful, bungled handling of the pandemic.

Echoing Nye Bevan, Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously said in 1965 that Labour’s actions would be governed by the language of priorities.

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This Prime Minister’s priority is clear: “You can have your memorial – but don’t put me on trial.”

It’s only a Games

The wisest comment during the Olympics so far came from Simone Biles, multiple-gold-winning American gymnast. “There’s more to life than just gymnastics,” she said, after pulling out of events for her mental health.

And the saddest was voiced by taekwondo competitor Bradly Sinden, 22, from Doncaster, who wouldn’t celebrate winning a silver medal. “Maybe I will eventually get over it,” he said. “But for now it has got to me I didn’t win gold.”

There are more things in life than winning gold. Like bringing the next generation into the world, and raising them to meet its challenges.

You don’t get medals for that. Just private satisfaction and pride.

Is absolutely nothing sacred?

A girlie Doctor Who didn’t matter because I don’t watch it.

But a woman playing my favourite TV character, Rumpole of the Bailey? Harrumph!

Horace is a rumpled old gentleman, modelled on his creator Sir John Mortimer, and played magnificently by Leo McKern for 15 years.

Mortimer’s daughter Emily has written a new series for the small screen, with Rumpole as a lady barrister. Shiver my wigs!

You can be sure she won’t have a domineering husband like Horace’s wife Hilda (named, I always thought, after Thatcher).

Old Rumpers is still on the box every Wednesday night on Talking Pictures. That is, until the new Horatia Rumpole gets a court order banning the show on grounds of sexism.



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