Christmas is one time in the year when many people usually come together to share special moments together. This week is usually the start for such events but sadly this year the potential for such activities is far more limited than it has been for many years. However, it is understandable why that is the case given the impact of COVID-19 on our society and across the World. Of course, there are also many people who find the closing down of our nation at this time of year very difficult and so they will find this year difficult, even though it is very different to recent years. Then there are the people whose working responsibilities continue on at Christmas as if nothing has changed and indeed for some this is the busiest time in the year. Indeed, the workload for many of these people has dramatically increased compared to other years and so they will be facing many more challenges than they would usually experience at Christmas. Over the next few days while most of us can have a break because of the close down of education or industrial settings, I have a request for a special group of people whose Westminster Offices are now closed for the next two weeks. I have made this request before, but if these people would pay attention, that all of us will benefit from it. My request is for them to make contact with all of their Sussex colleagues, irrespective of the political party that they are members of. As they will be aware, we are currently facing some of our most challenging factors in our communities and the need for our Government which includes 5 of the 16 Sussex MPs, to work with the rest is more vital than ever before.
There are a number of themes as part of COVID that our MPs need to start to work on together. One of these is any responses they may want to direct to Matthew Hancock. His statement was that “There is deteriorating picture across East and West Sussex, and Brighton and Hove. The case rates in all ages, case rates in people aged over 60, and positivity are broadly increasing across the majority of the area.” He clearly treats Sussex as one combined area and so our MPs need to respond back in the same way to get the best possible response. Rather than the way that Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) and Nusrat Ghani (Wealden) have reacted in the last few days. If they could seek to resolve their opposing views along with the other Sussex MPs before going public, we might get a better response from the Government than we do currently. As Huw Merriman stated last week “Unlike MPs in London, there has been no chance for East Sussex MPs to discuss this beforehand.” He may want to focus on East Sussex alone, but the majority of people in Sussex recognise that East and West Sussex including Brighton and Hove is one connected location. In reality once the Sussex MPs have begun to work together, they may need to link up with Surrey and Kent MPs if they are going to try to gain the same sort of credibility as the London MPs get on a regular basis, but they need to start in Sussex.
Another theme is the reaction from the Government over the UNICEF investment in several places including London and Plymouth in the last few days. The hard work of all of the foodbanks in Sussex along with the coordination from Sussex FareShare is clear evidence that many thousands of families in Sussex are needing support this Christmas. The comment by Jacob Rees-Mogg needs to be challenged by our MPs so that he can understand how significant poverty is in our region. Whilst we may not be calling for UNICEF, we certainly need to get support from the Government.
A third theme I am aware of is the speed or perhaps the lack of speed with which the Government responds to the questions that get raised by some of our Sussex MPs. Back on the 30th October Caroline Lucas asked a Minister “if the Government would extend the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme”. This is a very significant question and it is clearly very relevant. Then on the 1st December Lloyd Russell Moyle asked another Minister what the average response time is for the Government to respond to enquiries and he was told that the Cabinet Office guidance is for a response within 20 working days. So, given that one of our MPs is now waiting 35 days for an answer and given that the question would be relevant for people across Sussex, we clearly need our MPs to coordinate on these sorts of issues.