As many of us are aware there are challenges for the politicians that are elected every few years to run our nation and our Councils. Some of them are external which the representatives cannot prevent but they can work on and some are internal which they have an involvement in. However occasionally, the challenges become so large that it is important to try to get joint agreements on, irrespective of who is in power. Whatever the causes of COVID-19 and even the previous failure of our Government to respond to earlier indications that some preparation was needed, there are a number of actions or decisions that could be improved if only party politics was less dominant and if explanations and even apologies for the mistakes could be made and reversals of the bad decisions. Ideally as someone who has no party political involvement, it would be great if before decisions get taken, that all of the parties in the settings could communicate in an effective manner and as much as possible make judgements that are widely accepted by all. A classic example of how to handle things badly is the decision taken by Parliament last Tuesday which ignores COVID-19 conditions, and forces MPs to queue to vote over the next few weeks. This was approved by most Conservatives and opposed by almost all the other political parties and it will prevent MPs who are over 70 or who are vulnerable or disabled from being able to vote, but also wastes around 30 minutes for each vote that takes place and puts those who can vote into a high risk setting that is not entirely weather proof. This is at complete odds with the call by the Prime Minister and his colleagues for people to avoid taking part in such actions whenever possible. Given that the Government wants us all to wear face masks from a week on Monday whenever we travel on public transport, to see nearly 600 MPs travelling through their voting route several times each day, it might be necessary for the same approach to be taken by them! An alternative would be for Parliament to reverse the decision taken by most Sussex MPs and begin to restart the online voting. As well as being much lower in risk terms, it would also be much quicker and it would allow all MPs to vote, not just most of them. There were only two Sussex MPs who voted to avoid this happening so Peter Kyle and Lloyd Russell-Moyle should be congratulated. In addition three MPs abstained so Caroline Lucas, Tim Loughton and Nick Gibb should also be thanked whereas the rest of our Sussex MPs chose to make these long queues essential!
It would also be very helpful if at a local level there could be a lot more sensible approaches taken, which can avoid trying to win some party political points. It was widely recognised amongst people, that forcing them to send some children to Primary Schools a week ago was very concerning, even from parents who are keen for their children to be able to spend time with their friends and increase their learning opportunities. Some parents have applauded the Brighton and Hove decision to resist the opening and some have been frustrated. Over in East and West Sussex there are parents who are equally challenged with opposite decision making from those two Councils. There is no perfect solution and indeed as we are discovering with issues such as mask wearing on public transport that there are arguments both ways about the nature of the rules and their timing. In Brighton and Hove Councillor Samer Bagaeen has claimed that the Council decided about School opening after consulting with trade unions but ignoring parents, scientists and medical professionals and he has written a very strong claim which sadly implies that School opening is politically polarised. When it comes to parents, medical professionals and scientists there are a range of views and indeed even teachers have different views. In addition the promises set out by the Government for five key tests have not yet been met and for those of us who live in Sussex and are not members of a political party it is very frustrating that so many decisions get taken with little connection outside of the political parties. Listening to Grant Shapps regarding the wearing of facemasks, Priti Patel over quarantining and Boris Johnson over a range of subjects it appears as if changes have taken place which do not follow any clear arguments. That includes the timing of matters such as the opening of Schools. If the Government is not communicating clearly, there is bound to be local different views. Whatever the case COVID-19 is too big an issue for it to become party political!