The National:

IF you’ve ever watched television, you are pretty close to understanding what it’s like to cover the Covid inquiry.

It’s essentially the same, only a little more stressful and with more furious typing.

The media room of the inquiry resembles a call centre and there are four TVs on the walls. Two play the live feed of the inquiry as it takes place in the hearing room on the ground floor of Dorland House, near Paddington station in London.

The other show a transcript which is being typed in real time by an indefatigable stenographer.

It is for the stenographer’s benefit that lead counsel to the inquiry, Hugo Keith KC, frequently urges witnesses to slow down when they are speaking.

So when you’re covering the Covid inquiry, you’re basically no closer to the action than you would be watching at home, bar the excitement or tedium (depending on your temperament) of waiting for the big ticket witnesses to leave the building into a waiting car.

Boris Johnson was the star attraction this week, giving two days of testimony to the inquiry.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson told off within first minute of UK Covid-19 inquiry

The former prime minister’s testimony amounted to this: No, there wasn’t chaos or toxicity in Downing Street, we did our best, sorry about all the people who died and no, I didn’t want the elderly or vulnerable just to die of Covid.

That does not chime with much of the rest of what the inquiry has heard.

But Johnson and the rest of Team Boris, such as it is, will be pleased with the evidence he gave.

The former prime minister’s temper flared at points but he denied any especially juicy headlines.

The inquiry has been criticised for poor management of time and everyone seemed to be in a rush to get the loquacious former PM to finish at the agreed hour.

READ MORE: 'I love the SNP': Boris Johnson says he and Nicola Sturgeon were 'friendly'

This meant that despite his ramblings, there was not very much time for the inquiry to dig past his superficial (and reportedly extremely well-rehearsed) answers.  

As the clock ticked past half past four on Thursday afternoon, however, Johnson was still talking.

Feeling “rather sad” his time was up, he ended with a strange suggestion to the inquiry: That it might be interested in looking into the origins of Covid, despite this being outwith its remit.

Lady Hallett replied dryly: “Mr Johnson, you set my terms of reference.”

The proceedings inside the hearing room were lukewarm. But boiling fury awaited Johnson as he exited the building for his car.

His act might have avoided too many uncomfortable headlines in the press, but the cry of “murderer” as Johnson left on Thursday evening served as a sharp reminder of the pain he inflicted on the country.

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