We are clearly facing several very tragic and challenging positions within our world and within our communities that have emerged in the last week. The appalling impact on Ukraine from Russia is raising many concerns in a wide range of community sources along with their nation. Along with that challenge there is also a very different approach to COVID being set out by our government with the ability to test people at no cost for most people at the end of March. Whilst the UK Government is not in any way responsible for the appalling attack on Ukraine, there are clearly some elements of their activities that now need to change immediately and they are certainly responsible for the COVID decisions.
Last week there were modest contributions from Sussex MPs in the discussions about Ukraine and the impact by Russia and their link to China. Caroline Lucas spoke most frequently over the week although Henry Smith joined in on Monday and Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Tim Loughton got involved on the Thursday discussion and Sally-Ann Hart on Friday. There was one more Sussex MP, Huw Merriman who joined in on the COVID debate that Caroline and Henry took part with the Prime Minister on Monday. In that debate sadly only Caroline spoke for most of us with the words
“lifting restrictions today flies in the face of advice from many NHS leaders and health experts”
as part of her comment.
Thankfully there were a range of comments from agencies outside of Parliament following the COVID changes and in the hours after the Ukraine attack. Let us hope that this week Parliament will provide opportunities for the rest of our local MPs to speak on both of these themes. Perhaps they will also connect with their constituencies or work together across Sussex. I was very grateful for the comments from West Sussex last week. Along with Councils, other groups have raised these themes. I have read comments from agencies such as the Arundel and Brighton Roman Catholic Diocese and also from the Evangelical Alliance and no doubt many other agencies have done something similar.
One of the public statements on the COVID issue came from Alison Challenger, the West Sussex Director of Public Health who explained that from last Thursday that the legal restrictions had ended and as she explained
“The pandemic isn’t over yet, and in line with the national advice there are many simple and easy things we can all choose to do to protect ourselves and each other including the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
Other comments relating to the radical COVID changes emerged from a number of agencies including the Evangelical Alliance who also picked up the Ukraine challenges that the Roman Catholic agencies raised last week.
Last Monday in Parliament Caroline Lucas and Henry Smith raised questions about Ukraine and Russia in a discussion involving Ben Wallace, the defence minister. The following day Boris Johnson entered into the Parliament and stated
“I will make a statement about the situation in Ukraine”
The only Sussex MP who took part in that was Caroline Lucas. She asked him
“Will the Prime Minister stop studiously ignoring the Intelligence and Security Committee’s “Russia” report, which found credible evidence of attempts to interfere with the UK’s election processes?”
His disturbing response was
“I am not aware of any”.
The next day in the House of Commons when the Prime Minister was supposed to be responding to questions, he once again faced a response from Caroline Lucas. She began with the words
“Yesterday, when I asked the Prime Minister about Russian meddling in UK elections, he looked very shifty before claiming that he was not aware of any.”
The comment from the Prime Minister was
“I have seen absolutely no evidence of successful Russian interference in any electoral event.”
On Thursday the Prime Minister appeared again stating
“Shortly after 4 o’clock this morning I spoke to President Zelensky of Ukraine, as the first missiles struck his beautiful and innocent country and its brave people, and I assured him of the unwavering support of the United Kingdom”
There were two Sussex responses from Tim Loughton and Lloyd Russell-Moyle. Tim included the comment
“The way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them.”
The final comment from any of our Sussex MPs came on Friday from Sally-Ann Hart who spoke in the final Ukraine discussion. She stated
“I want to voice condemnation of Mr Putin on behalf of the residents of Hastings and Rye, and their support of and prayers for the Ukrainians.”
We now need the other Sussex MPs to speak on behalf of their constituencies or perhaps they could all work together on the two themes of the latest COVID arrangements and the tragic situation being impacted in Ukraine!