The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle with Coronavirus with The Sunday Times Insight Team

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On Thursday, March 18 Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott from The Sunday Times Insight investigative team were in conversation with Emma Tucker, editor of The Sunday Times, discussing their book, Failures of State: The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle with Coronavirus.

Their article  Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster which featured in The Sunday Times on Sunday, April 19 2020 was the most read article of last year.  With access to key figures at the top of government during the most tumultuous year of modern British history, Failures of State is an exhaustive and thrillingly told story – and one of the most essential pieces of investigative reporting for a generation.

Failures of State recalls the political decisions taken at the heart of Boris Johnson’s team during the global pandemic. Meticulously researched and corroborated by hundreds of inside sources, politicians, emergency planners, scientists, doctors, paramedics and bereaved families, along with leaked data and documents, this is the insider’s account of how the government sleepwalked into disaster and tried to cover up its role in the tragedy. 

In the eye of the storm was Boris Johnson, a Prime Minister who idolised Winston Churchill and had the chance to become a hero of his own making as the crisis engulfed the nation. Instead he was fixated on Brexit, his own political destiny and a myriad of personal issues, all while presiding over the UK government’s botched response to the global coronavirus pandemic. After missing key Cobra meetings, embracing and abandoning herd immunity and dithering over lockdown, Johnson left the NHS facing an unmanageable deluge of patients. His inaction resulted in the deaths of many thousands of British people and his own hospitalisation at the hands of the pandemic, yet further reckless decisions allowed a deadly second wave to sweep across the country in the winter months with the economy on the brink of collapse.

Jonathan Calvert is the editor of The Sunday Times’ renowned Insight investigative team. His accolades include British Journalist of the Year and the Paul Foot Award as well as Scoop of the Year on three occasions. Among his stories are Cash for Questions, the Fifa Files, the Doping Scandal and, most recently, the prime minister’s conflict of interest over his American friend. More information about Jonathan can be found here.

George Arbuthnott joined the Sunday Times on the Marie Colvin scholarship and is now deputy editor of the Insight team. He has won six British Journalism and UK Press Awards, including Investigation of the Year and Scoop of the Year, and has been shortlisted for an Amnesty International Award, the European Press Prize and the Orwell Prize.

Emma Tucker joined The Times in 2007 as associate features editor and became editor of T2 within a year. After five years she was appointed editorial director where she helped foster a much closer working relationship between the editorial and commercial teams, before being appointed deputy editor in 2013. In January 2020 Emma was appointed editor of The Sunday Times making her the first female editor of this paper  in more than a century. 

Photo credit: Times Photographer Richard Pohle

Exclusive subscriber offer: Failures of State: The Inside Story of Britain's Battle with Coronavirus is published by Harper Collins on March 18, 2021 RRP £20.00. Subscribers can pre-order the book at a discounted price of £10.00 from here by entering the code FAILED at the checkout (valid until March 25, 2021). 

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