We are at the beginning of week ten since the Prime Minister announced “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – You must stay at home because the critical thing we must do to stop the disease spreading between households” He re-appeared two weeks ago with what he claimed was phase two which involved some complex issues, that he tried to present as equally simple. Thankfully some Ministers later clarified these to help making changes including working arrangements for certain industries, some of which are heading in the right direction. Providing they happen in an orderly and careful manner these may avoid too many risks or problems. However there are other aspects that are more problematic based on how they were set out and given that our weather is nicer than it was in March. We clearly need the Government to work much harder on their guidance to avoid too many large groups of visitors to seafronts and other conventional holiday locations by people who do not live anywhere near them. Otherwise there is a serious risk of a much more extreme second peak of the COVID-19 virus. Along with these actual visits there have been other challenging elements such as the rubbish disposed by visitors which are setting out extra tasks for Councils that now have to send their limited staff onto those locations to try to keep beaches and other locations tidy.
Along with the Ministers who tried to unpack the call by Johnson made on the 10th May, we are also hearing from some who along with MPs are trying to resolve other issues that are just as challenging for our nation. Last week as the debacle over School opening emerged, the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland explained that the Government was in listening mode and it appears that there is some limited willingness to make other changes alongside conversion of the broadcast instructions from his boss. One of these is the reversal to the demand that Johnson made as recently at the last Prime Ministers Question time for overseas workers in our NHS to need to pay an obscene amount of money, simply to work in our nation. Some of us would also want to see them offered citizenship! Although the challenge at PMQs only involved the leaders of Labour and SNP, there were others including members of the Conservative Party who recognised the need to change this appalling situation. It was good to see at least one Sussex MP supporting her colleagues in this matter and perhaps Nusrat Ghani from Wealden was not alone in that amongst the other Sussex Tories?
If Buckland and any other members of the Government want to hear from us, this week is a good opportunity for all Sussex MPs to actually do so in a radical and effective way. The House of Commons is currently closed down even though it has only operated for around 100 hours over the last 8 weeks. So this week the 16 Sussex MPs could work together to participate in a group video conferencing arrangement that all residents could view and send questions and comments to. This is a way that is much more accessible than the arrangements made by MPs such as by Caroline Ansell to only connect with one constituent at a time via a telephone. Sadly from next week all of our MPs will have to travel to Westminster each day of Parliament simply so they can vote for policies in person, even though less than 10% of them will be able to sit in the Chamber at any time due to the COVID-19 conditions. They will also be prevented from speaking in debates using the video conferencing technology which along with digital votes offered a modern way of running a Government that would match the claim from Brighton and Hove Tories who claim theirs is the Greenest Party. The damage to our environment by 16 Sussex MPs who can work from home and won’t achieve anything extra from Westminster maybe modest, but the message it sends out to the nation that working from home is no longer credible, even though constituents are supposed to be the most important contacts is deeply disturbing. It is much worse that all 13 Tory MPs from Sussex voted to make that a demand for all MPs. Sadly most of these MPs also voted to bring an end to democracy within Parliament by granting Government the right to select the Chair of a scrutiny Committee that is meant to hold the Government to account. Apart from Huw Merriman and Nusrat Ghani, all of the other Sussex Tory MPs voted for the Government rather than Parliament to be the group that chooses the Chair. Ghani abstained but Merriman actually voted against!