History sometimes happens in the most mundane of places. Take Dorland House, London W2 6BU, where the UK Covid-19 Inquiry hearings are being held.

Given the serious business at hand, the greatest health and economic crisis to hit the UK since the Second World War, one might think the surroundings would run to aged oak and crimson velvet. Instead, those white walls and blonde wood make the place look like a lecture theatre at a minor university. As do the ranks of lawyers tapping away on their laptops.

Looking like a lecture hall might be more fitting, since the point of such inquiries, we are told, is to learn lessons. Set out what went wrong, and what went right, in the hope that if a similar disaster came along we would be better prepared to deal with it.

Yet anyone who has watched the proceedings in London this week, and at the mirror Scottish inquiry in Edinburgh, could be forgiven for thinking they were already familiar with much of the brew on offer. A shambolic prime minister presides over chaotic circus of dither and delay, making an already dreadful situation worse. Throw in more details of the Downing Street parties, some argy-bargy over slogans, and there you have it, the perfect bowl of political punch. Sip it and weep.

READ MORE Sturgeon silent on WhatsApps

Admittedly, the latest dramatis personae at the London end things did have a certain novelty value. This being Halloween, it was only fitting that skeletons should come tumbling out of cupboards and the career dead should walk among us once more. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we give you Lee Cain, former director of communications for Boris Johnson, and Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s chief adviser at the time.

Cain, who in a previous life as a reporter dressed up as a chicken to taunt Tory election candidates, was the David Brent of the piece, fond of using management speak when plain English would have done. Covid, he said, was “the wrong crisis for this Prime minister’s skillset”. Working with Johnson, moreover, could be “exhausting” as he would veer all over the shop when making decisions, hence his nickname, “The Trolley”.

More damning still were the extracts from the diaries of Sir Patrick Vallance, then the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, read out to the inquiry. He wrote that Mr Johnson was “obsessed with older people accepting their fate and letting the young get on with life and the economy going”. Voters of a certain age will not forgive or forget that and similar comments in a hurry.

The next bald head to appear before an unforgiving spotlight belonged to Cummings. Sorry, Dominic Mckenzie Cummings to give him his Sunday best name. Crumpled of jacket, loose of tie, he looked like an animatronic scarecrow.

Hugo Keith KC read out some of the words and phrases Cummings used in his WhatsApp messages to describe ministers. The only one that can be reproduced in a family paper is “morons”. The BBC issued a note about the “strong language” in the live feed from the hearing. Hearing such expletives was one of the low points of the day and summed up how far standards in government had plunged. We had certainly come a long way from "economical with the actualité" times.

Yet apart from generating headlines, what was the point of yesterday’s proceedings in London? Cummings had covered the same ground ad tedium when he appeared before MPs, and in his on-line witterings. Indeed, what did we learn here that did not feature in Laura Kuenssberg’s recent documentary, State of Chaos? In general, political history is littered with inquiries that seem groundbreaking and revealing at the time but ultimately result in whitewash reports that change little to nothing. We simply cannot know if the Covid inquiries will go the same way.

READ MORE 14,000 messages to be handed over

One major difference between these inquiries and what went before is the way they are drawing back the curtain on how politics is conducted today. The insistence of UK inquiry chair Baroness Hallett, a former Court of Appeal judge, on using WhatsApp messages and other electronic communications already looks like being a game changer. It is one thing to suspect that politicians are privately contemptuous of their colleagues and public opinion, and quite another to see it set out verbatim in an email or text message.

Similarly eye-opening are the glimpses such e-evidence offers into how decisions are made. According to Lee Cain, Boris Johnson’s decisions were determined by the last person he spoke to on the subject. Truly, Johnson should not have been allowed to get within a mile of a whelk stall far less be placed in charge of the UK government.

And what of governance in Scotland? Here, too, the inquiries are proving illuminating, though not always in a positive way. It was the UK inquiry that first drew attention to the differing amounts of WhatsApp messages handed over by London and Edinburgh. Days of speculation followed before a Scottish Government minister deigned to come before the Scottish Parliament with an explanation.

When the statement did arrive it raised more questions than it answered. Shona Robison, Deputy First Minister, told parliament that the UK inquiry had widened the scope of the data requested, and that some 14,000 further WhatsApp messages will now be sent. But whose messages she insisted she could not say. We know that the current First Minister has stated he will comply. Has the former First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, already done so?

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Robison said that should either Covid inquiry want more information, the Scottish Government expected “every Minister, past and present, every government official and clinical adviser” to comply. Expecting them to comply is not the same as insisting and ensuring they do so. Is the Scottish Government not ultimately responsible and answerable for any and all communications carried out in its name?

Nor do we know how many messages might have been deleted since the original request was made by the UK inquiry and subsequently widened. By the very nature of deleted emails we might never know. We are in the territory of unknown unknowns, an uncomfortable place to be.

“This will all come out in the wash,” said Alex Cole-Hamilton, one of many MSPs unhappy with the government’s statement. They are not alone.