It is very conventional for the Parliamentary Summer recession to take place around this date with the first full week starting today. Based on the time of year and the fact that usually MPs would have all been working long hours in Parliament every day for several months and away from their constituencies and main homes for most of that time. We would now usually have a relatively quiet period politically and so apart from being invited to attend public social events in their constituencies, most MPs would not have or seek any opportunities to speak out about what is now taking place. However this year does seem to have some elements that are unusual and totally unique and it seems very strange that the conventional way of running Parliament is not due to change even though many people would agree that it should have happened. Clearly the transitional aspect of COVID-19 is one reason why MPs should be continuing to monitor the national situation, bringing in their local issues would be make sense for them to continue to connect with Parliament. Then there is the many weeks of conventional discussions which would usually involve more than 50 MPs at a time that have been prevented from taking place due to COVID. This would logically mean that the usual summer recess would need to be cancelled or dramatically shortened this year so that some of the work that was planned to take place could still be achieved. This would be the case in any given year, but it is particularly true given that we are at the very early stages of a new Parliament. Then there is the exit from the EU and what will take place in the immediate future after we leave. That should have made ending a long summer recess necessary this year even if COVID-19 had not impacted our nation and Parliament so dramatically.
Given that there has been no U turn so far, we clearly need to consider what could take place more locally to reflect these issues. The Sussex MPs have not been so active in Parliament itself over the last few months and will not be involved in many public events over the next six weeks. They will have had plenty of correspondence in this time but that is not necessarily reflective of whole communities. The great news is that the technology used in the first return to Parliament after the Lockdown still exists and Sussex MPs could easily meet online on a regular basis over future weeks and enable us as local residents to find out what the changes to COVID arrangements will be and what is happening in the EU departure arrangements. The same mechanism could also allow residents in a wide range of local settings to engage with their Sussex MPs. After all Johnson went to Orkney and some other Scottish locations a few days ago and Shapps was in the Northern area releasing some resources to enable that area to move forward. Whilst there is often reference to London and the South East, in fact as the South East part of that description, we are currently as badly connected as many parts of the North of England and some parts of Scotland.
A great starting point for some of the local MPs to respond to has arisen in the last few days following calls by a friend of mine, Colin Miller and a few other people to start a campaign to improve the life in our city. As someone who lives in Brighton but works in East Sussex I would suggest that this could be extended to cover the whole of Sussex if local people agreed with and wanted to contribute to Colin’s ideas. The Campaign is called “Build Back Better in Brighton and Hove” and it was launched with a radical vision of how life in the City could improve after the COVID pandemic. I agree with this idea as do a number of other people who have formally endorsed it, but there may well be many others who would like to do so. As we have all agreed, there is a desire for us as local residents to live better together in our area and to quote from Colin “We face critical times but also have enormous opportunities to make changes for the better.” The tragic death of another friend of mine, Barry Hulyer a few days ago reminds many of us how hard he worked over many decades to strengthen communities in our city. To strengthen this means breaking out of political and geographical silos and finding new ways of working throughout communities to improve the environment and the life quality for all people. Such an appeal needs to be heard by all Councillors and MPs.