It has been two months since I last wrote to you. In that time my colleagues across the House and I have seen an increasing number of emails come into our already busy inboxes. At the same time, we have in the last weeks moved from a hybrid proceeding using Zoom to a physical proceeding and then back again. I would very much like to set the example and get back to work safely, but we see, even as more shops open again this week that the process is slow.
Westminster is a vastly different place due to Covid-19 and while I have been working from Westminster for the last several weeks, access to the Chamber to participate is strictly limited. A relaxation to the ‘two metre’ rule will not only make opening up businesses and schools more straightforward but will make Parliament work more effectively too and like many of you I have a quiet longing to see glimpses of the world we knew before Coronavirus.
There are adaptations that have been forced upon us, especially digital, that are positive, and I would not like to see some of these advancements lost. We will have to weigh up the opportunity versus cost of more people working from home in the future as this will have a significant impact on commercial property, for instance, but many have reported that it has been an improvement to their personal well-being. If we believe in market freedoms, we believe in progress and perhaps we have been catapulted full speed ahead into the next industrial revolution.
Locally, we have seen a huge reduction in the number of cases of Covid-19 and deaths recorded at the Royal Surrey. This is most definitely a positive direction of travel and I celebrate the excellent news this week of the new discovery of a drug to significantly decrease mortality rates in the most serious cases.
This weekend will be critical in determining whether the mass gatherings and protests two weeks ago will see a spike in new cases. I sincerely hope not, but there is evidence in both the US and Australia of a rise again following protests there.
While the Black Lives Matter protest sparked by the horrific killing of George Floyd was a demonstration of still more work that needs to be done in this country for everyone to feel equal, the senseless violence and desecration of war memorials that we hold very dear was intolerable. So too was the senseless response by other extreme elements last weekend. The London Mayor can in no way pat himself on the back for his handling of the breakdown of behaviour over several weeks and the mixed response that each protest received from our fantastic police who worked in difficult conditions under the orders they were given.
Behavioural experts predicted that lockdown would be difficult to sustain over a significant period of time and we have witnessed public elements of it, however, more concerning for the Government is what is happening in 2 homes across the country, hidden harms to our society.
This week has been a rather difficult week for the Department of Education, who I work closely with. I’m sure we can all agree that getting all children back to school is a top priority, especially those children from difficult backgrounds. Teachers have been heroic over these many months providing school space for children of key workers and those with a social worker or an education plan. There is a large support package being worked on as I type to help children catch up with these last few months. Mental health support for our young people is important and I know how difficult it has been, having three teenagers in critical years of schooling and exams.
We may seem slightly on the backfoot in terms of the Free School Meals decision to continue over the summer holidays, but the Prime Minister was on excellent form during PMQs this week and managed to turn the tables on Sir Keir Starmer who would not go against the Unions and Labour-run councils who are being obstructive in the process of returning children to school.
We are quickly pushing through legislation and I am expecting to have the summer recess cut short. I have spent the last two weeks sitting on the Immigration and Social Services Bill Committee, part of legislation we are putting through to help us leave the EU, and several other Bills are at Committee stage.
We must not forget in all of this the manifesto we were elected on to deliver with an 80 seat majority. There will no doubt be difficult times ahead and there will be times when the polling looks difficult for our party, but we will keep the faith and I will be resolute in my support for the Prime Minister and loyal to our Conservative party and values, though many encourage me on a daily basis to vote against the Government. We have much to do!
The Prime Minister will over the coming weeks keep laying out the roadmap to recovery, both economically and socially. We have all quite frankly been amazing for so many weeks and put up with so much. The generation in WWII were known for their Blitz Spirit. We might not have a name for it yet, but in decades to come this time will be remembered and we will be remembered for our stoicism, our optimism in the face of never-ending lockdown and our enthusiastic support of our key workers and frontline staff in our NHS.
Thank you all for your continued support and I cannot wait to get out and knock on some doors with our fantastic activists soon!