There are three crucial issues I’m working on with urgency: 1. more testing; 2. help for the self employed & 3. more protective equipment for key workers.
‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ is practically the motto of our country. We pride ourselves by our ability to soldier on through adversity.
But now we’re being told to keep calm but don’t carry on and we’re all finding it really hard. The struggles we normally prepare for involve action not seclusion. But the situation we find ourselves in now is very different and it requires all of us to act differently in response.
It’s really important that government succeeds in its mission to stamp out coronavirus and to do that we’re all going to have to work together. We’re living in an age of deep division and partisanship in our politics and society. But in the midst of a crisis on this magnitude division and tribalism will literally cost lives so there can be no place for it.
Since the beginning of this crisis I’ve tried incredibly hard to form a constructive relationship with government because its in the best interests of our whole community to do so. That means at times my role as an opposition MP right now is to do the unusual thing of help government get its message out and deliver its Covid-19 policies effectively.
But that’s a two-way street and when I gain insight into hat needs to be done better then I use my position as best I possibly can to make it heard within government and get the changes we desperately need.
Right now there are three areas I have been relentlessly feeding back to government about the need for improvement. The first is about testing. We’re simply not testing enough people and without the detailed knowledge of exactly who has it the job of targeting resources effectively becomes really difficult. To illustrate how far we need to go to get on top on this think about teh scale of testing in South Korea: in total since this crisis began Britain has tested about 70,000 people for the virus and have been constrained by our ability to procure tests. By comparison South Korea produce 100,000 tests per day. Yes, per day.
Secondly, I have been contacted by several hundred residents about the lack of support for people who are self employed, contractors, or sole traders. I’ve head from musicians, plumbers, gardeners, web designers, electricians, dog walkers, game developers and so many more. Our local economy is a rich tapestry of incredibly industrious people running small but successful businesses and the business has dried through no fault of their own. Government announced support for employees two weeks ago and I’ve been telling ministers privately and in public in the Commons that the imbalance with the self employed needs fixing. Norway, Denmark and other countries have already announced schemes and it’s time our government did too because I am very, very aware of the stress that’s being caused by the wait for help. I have told ministers that I believe a scheme based on average declared earnings for the past two years would be a good place to start.
Finally, I’ve been focussing on getting all the equipment that frontline NHS and caring staff need to them without further delay. I have now spoken directly to numerous nurses, carers, doctors and plenty of others who care for vulnerable people in hospital and in our community and I have heard in harrowing detail about the lack of suitable equipment.
On all three of these issues I have been working flat-out to make your voice heard.
We all knew the time was coming when we’d be confined to our homes. I felt a great sadness when I watched the announcement but I also knew that our community would rise to the challenge. I have spoken to the managers of our local supermarkets, the commander of our police force, the people running our hospitals and local authority, and they all know that I am here the second an issue arrises that could harm the wellbeing of any resident.
What’s being asked of us is simultaneously really simple but very difficult. Staying home is easy in theory, but in practice it’s tough. I’ve lived in my flat for 19 years and yesterday was the first day I can ever remember when I didn’t go outside. I’m not kidding myself, this is going to be really difficult for me! Tomorrow I need to be in the Commons as I’ve been selected to ask a question in PMQs, but other than that I’ll be working from home and living by the same rules as everyone else. As someone who loathes being cooped up believe me…if I can do it anyone can!
Stay safe and stay home.