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Christian former NHS director says Covid policymakers must face justice before forgiveness

by Will Hobbs

A former non-executive director in the NHS has told Premier that Covid decision makers under Boris Johnson could be guilty of manslaughter, and that forgiveness can come only after they are held fully to account by the Covid inquiry. 

Francis Davis' comments come as Dominic Cummings, Johnson's top advisor at the start of the pandemic, and former head of communications Lee Cain both gave evidence at Tuesday's inquiry session.

The medical and social care expert and professor at St Mary's Univeristy Twickenham told Premier that, depending on the inquriy's findings, those in power may yet have to face justice. 

"If what emerges from the inquiry is an absolute conviction, that 1000s of family members died needlessly, then that's manslaughter. If that was a company who'd accidentally killed people in their machinery, the board of directors would be held personally liable on an unlimited basis.

"And so it seems to be absolutely crucial that we get to the bottom of how many unnecessary deaths occurred. And then those people deserve to encounter the full force of justice. And can can we forgive them in due course, of course, we can forgive them, and they can find restoration afterwards."

Davis argues that as well as learning lessons from the inquiry about handling global pandemics, which he says the world is likely to have to face again soon, the inquiry must also teach the UK about raising leaders.

"I think there's a really important kind of Christian vocation here, too, to think again about how we train our public leaders coming from our community, about the kinds of training we offer through our education and other institutions - to raise up the next generation of public policy leaders. Because we did have a generation before that came out of the experiences of war. And you had a sense of gravitas and seriousness, they'd seen bullets coming their way.

"So they took public policy choices deadly seriously, because they knew the cost of human failure in policymaking decisions.

"And maybe what's happened here is not just that we had a chaotic fool in the form of Boris Johnson, but that we've raised up a generation of policymakers that have never actually had to deal with something as great as a pandemic, or a war or something like that. And what they've lost is a kind of a moral seriousness that we in the Christian community would expect them to have, and we'd be well positioned to help them recover."

Davis thinks there "just wasn't a serious approach to what was going on" from the government towards Covid. He's called their approach "highly personalised, highly politicized, [with] a prime minister [who was] not on top of the detail, nor on top of the strategic planning that you need to do."

Davis compared Boris Johnson's leadership during the pandemic to a Primer Minister "eating pizza and watching telly" while his country was "going to war".  

He particularly highlighted what he described as "a liberalisation of all the rules of health care for those with disabilities," by the government at the time, and said he felt "due process was upended" regularly, to create "a ball of chaos" that he claimed could amount to "manslaughter."

"If you look at the number of people who died", Davis said, "it's highly concentrated among black minority ethnic communities, and those who are disabled.  So there's a lack of discipline and that moral liberalisation coming together to essentially kill members of families, or to reduce their lives. And there must be... a holding to account.

"People in my extended family died, that I'm pretty sure need not have died, because of the kind of chaos and because of the new rules and regulations that were brought in too quickly or too slowly, in different parts of the country.

During the inquiry, Mr Cummings described the Cabinet Office - the key department that supports the PM and the running of government - as a "dumpster fire" when he was appointed in 2019.  His private messages, which have since been made public, reveal multiple explicit outbursts at the incompetence of No.10 staff.

Over Whatsapp he also called then Health Secretary Matt Hancock a "liar", when Cain had branded him "a joke" and said he needed to "go".

In messages to the Prime Minister at the time, Boris Johnson, Cummings had written: "Hancock is unfit for this job. The incompetence the constant lies...." and went on to use expletives to express his frustration at the lack of serious testing in care homes, before saying Hancock's, "uselessness" was killing people. 

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