The news is full of really alarming stories at the moment. Unemployment is rising, as are the number of people catching and dying from covid.
It’s now accepted that we went into lockdown too late in March. In the ten days between government accepting the inevitability of lockdown and them finally announcing it, thousands of people caught the disease and it spread across the country. It is terrible to see government making the same mistakes again.
I understand why government want to have a local response when some areas are worse hit by this fresh wave of infection, but there’s problems with this approach.
Firstly, places like Leicester had high restrictions imposed on them over a month ago and there’s no end in sight. Since that time the levels of grading the problem have changed several times and most people are confused and angry that they have been so heavily affected for so long and yet it’s barely mentioned on the news. They have a point. If London had been in lockdown for a month but the rest of the country had been largely free to continue as normal you can bet there would have been blanket coverage.
The other problem is that even in places living with tighter restrictions there are still a lot of people moving in and out of their communities for work, deliveries, and other reasons that it’s making it really hard to contain the spread. Covid infections and deaths are still rising and still spreading.
This is why Labour suggested a ‘circuit break’ lockdown. Unlike before where lockdown lasted for several months, this would be for a few weeks and not seek to eliminate covid but to stunt its progress whilst giving our public health services time to regroup and refocus vital infrastructure like testing and tracing. Still, after all this time, government have not got this right.
Time is running out on this option though. I really do fear that we will stumble into another full lockdown unless government gets its act together soon and starts to make good on its promise to work with people in an open-spirited way.
The financial package to support people who’s jobs are affected by this latest wave of restrictions is significantly less than before. All of the highest restrictions are in the North and Midlands. It’s easy to see why people are forming the view that the north is being treated differently from the rest of the country, because it’s true, they are.
I’ve been listening closely to the prime minister and ministers. In recent days they’ve been saying two conflicting things: first, that the deal they offered Merseyside is the maximum any community will get. Secondly, that they want to discuss and negotiate local deals with local leaders. Both cannot be true. You can’t negotiate a local deal if only one package is on offer.
The truth is that central government is forcing a ‘one size fits all’ package on communities that are increasingly desperate. We’re no longer one country united in this battle, we’ve been pitched against each other by a prime minister who knows only how to divide people and pit them against each other. This breaks my heart as someone who came into politics to do the opposite.
Today we had two essential votes in parliament. The first was on a new approach to covid, which we lost. The second was to help feed the million children who are currently experiencing hunger until the covid crisis has passed. Almost unbelievably we lost that vote too.
I’m an upbeat person, an optimist. I usually leave parliament and breath in the fresh air and clear my head ready for the fresh opportunities tomorrow. But today is different. It’s 9pm and I’m sitting in my office in parliament and will shortly pack my notebook and things into my backpack and head off.
But I won’t pretend to be upbeat right now. I know how anxious people are, I know there are loads of people who will read this who are totally uncertain if their job or business will exist next month. And the thought of so many children going to bed tonight feeling hungry is just sole destroying. Not only did hundreds of MP’s vote against measures that would alleviate some of these challenges, the debates today were not pleasant to witness and often spilled over into anger.
Don’t worry, tomorrow I’ll bounce right back, but for now I can’t help feeling that our politics has let our country down today.