On Thursday the discussion regarding COVID-19 that took place in Parliament involved a number of MPs. One of these was Nusrat Ghani from the Wealden constituency of East Sussex. In another debate on the same day there was also a contribution from Huw Merriman which I wrote about yesterday here. Huw is the MP for Bexhill and Battle which is part of the Rother District. Wealden is an important part of East Sussex as the District Council which has the same name as Nusrat Ghani’s constituency touches the coast either side of Eastbourne and reaches up to Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks areas of Kent. The Eastern side of Wealden District is Rother District and on the Western side of Wealden District is Lewes District which touches the coast but only goes up as far as Mid Sussex which of course is now part of West Sussex. This map relates to the District Councils which for most people is what matters much more than Parliament. The challenge for MPs is that their constituencies do not follow the same geography. However they do have some similar elements. Of course for the whole of Sussex if one can grasp this, we have a total of 13 Districts and along with this we have 3 upper tier Councils, one of which is the unitary Brighton and Hove which is also a District. The number of MPs is similar with a total of five MPs that represent most of East Sussex and there are eight MPs that represent most of West Sussex and then three that together represent all of Brighton and Hove and a small amount of East and West Sussex.
So here is the challenge. If we focus on what national authorities recognise as East Sussex, that includes Brighton and Hove, even though it is a separate unitary local authority. That means that our MP representation for East Sussex as viewed nationally as 8 MPs which matches the 8 West Sussex MPs. However in themes such as NHS and indeed many agencies that cover the whole of Sussex, such as Sussex Police, they see Brighton and Hove as separate from East Sussex as it is from West Sussex. That said there is now a strong connection between Brighton and Hove with West Sussex when it comes to the Hospital Trust. The complexity includes the fact that constituencies such as Brighton Kemptown which is represented by Lloyd Russell-Moyle includes part of Lewes District Council which is part of East Sussex County Council and that the Hove constituency which is represented by Peter Kyle includes part of Adur Borough Council which is part of West Sussex County Council. So if MPs are asked to focus on East Sussex which is the County Council element or indeed the NHS or Police element, there are in fact 6 MPs not 5. If MPs like Nusrat Ghani want to stand up and speak about East Sussex they should refer to six MPs and even if they want to remove the one non-Conservative MP who in any case is only covering a small part of the County area there needs to be five of them, rather than four which is what this speech by Nusrat Ghani refers to. Unless of course the speech is trying to ignore the Labour MP who covers a small part of East Sussex County Council and the Conservative Party Governmental Assistant Whip who covers the West part of East Sussex. The challenge if she takes that approach is that she is ignoring a significant part of the East Sussex County area.
Here is the speech from Nusrat Ghani
In keeping with my right hon. Friend’s spirit of working together, I stand not only to represent Wealden, but to speak on behalf of my hon. Friends the Members for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), for Eastbourne (Caroline Ansell) and for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart). We wish to collectively thank the CEOs of the clinical commissioning group and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, our county leader, Keith Glazier, and our local department for public health for working with us day in, day out to understand the data and the reason for the infection rates. We are deeply disappointed that, considering all the five indicators, where we mark extremely low, we are in tier 2, and we are disappointed that central Government have not consulted local leaders, because they would then have been able to investigate the data and, hopefully, show us how we can move into tier 1 from tier 2. Will my right hon. Friend provide some assurances that these conversations will take place with local leaders and confirm that transparent objective criteria will be published for each tier, and how we can slide between each tier?
Perhaps the most important aspect however is not that Nusrat needs to include her colleagues in East Sussex (Maria and Lloyd) but actually she and her friends in the East part of East Sussex need to bring together their neighbours in the rest of Brighton and Hove which is part of East Sussex in many senses, but also the neighbours further away in West Sussex. Any meaningful change for Sussex will need to involve its three upper tier authorities, it will need to fit naturally with all of the agencies that work across the whole of Sussex and it may also make sense for them to consider Surrey and Kent. Given that Kent is currently in tier 3, there is no prospect of shifting any part of East Sussex into tier 1 without a major challenge on the border areas.