It is very sad that in two days’ time, just as was the case yesterday that we will not be able to publicly participate in the annual Remembrance Day due to our COVID lockdown. Last week in the House of Commons, Theresa May spoke about this along with public worship concerns which have also been raised by some faith leaders. Clearly for many other people the lockdown relates much more to businesses and hospitality provision along with housing and job issues. Our nation is facing several challenges and while lockdown has been set out to try to reduce one of these, there are new challenges that have arisen as a result of lockdown or due to other causes. We are impacted by the election of Joe Biden and the reaction from Donald Trump and his supporters in the UK. There are also violent issues that have arisen in several European nations in recent days with some views that they may be linked to the decision by those nations to go into lockdown. Here in the UK and particularly in Sussex we have also had to deal with the lack of Fireworks events last week which like the limit to Remembrance Day has upset many people.
The timing of our latest lockdown was clearly very poor and an earlier more careful response might have made more sense and saved more lives. Clearly a later lockdown would probably save fewer lives and although its timing would have missed connecting with the US election and Firework Night it would have clashed with Christmas which hopefully will not be affected by this lockdown. What is very clear is that we need to support the parts of our communities that are trying to resolve or reduce these issues. The very obvious elements include the NHS along with the Ambulance Service, the Police, Fire and Rescue and our Council services. These five very important parts all need the support from us as citizens and perhaps even more importantly from the MPs who are grappling with some of these issues on a political level. It is very disturbing that the small numbers of MPs from across the nation who voted against the lockdown are disproportionally represented here in Sussex. Three out of the 16 Sussex MPs rejected the lockdown which represents nearly 20% of our MPs compared to 5% across the nation. They were Tim Loughton, Huw Merriman and Henry Smith. It is certainly true that their Government is part of the problem and as party members they should be able to raise their concerns internally with the Prime Minister and improve his decision making and communications. However once things become public and the citizens and Police services are told to respond to these matters, our MPs must then work together.
Along with the three oppositions to the lockdown, two of those Sussex MPs also spoke in the debate. Now of course they were not alone in speaking and some of the others also raised their concerns. However the other 13 Sussex MPs did not vote to oppose the lockdown. Clearly with the lack of access to Parliamentary debates, it is much more difficult to be able to hear from MPs although most Sussex MPs do participate regularly. Sadly Maria Caulfield has not spoken in Parliament since late June which is very concerning. Last week six Sussex MPs spoke during the lockdown debates. On Monday Caroline Lucas called on Johnson to support the self-employed and freelancers, focusing on the arts and hospitality industries. She also spoke on Tuesday and called for support from the Government for hospitality, leisure and accommodation business sectors. Peter Kyle also spoke in that debate adding to a call for support for the self-employed. On Wednesday before the lockdown votes, Peter Bottomley raised his concerns and asked for Tennis or Golf players to be allowed to continue. Nusrat Ghani said that given lockdown would take place, that it must be treated robustly and end after 28 days. Sadly the claim from Huw Merriman was that East Sussex is currently in a good state and so national lockdown is not necessary and Tim Loughton argued that a national lockdown should not take place until the regional lockdown results have been assessed. One of the challenges if regional lockdowns occur is that some people may travel to pubs and hotels elsewhere and that can be very damaging as Leicester displayed. Equally those regions that are locked down can feel very badly treated. The Government also needs to respond very fast. We now have three and a half weeks to go, our MPs and Council Leaders need to start working together so that our region is better informed and prepared for the future as COVID will not disappear on the 2nd December or even next Spring.