Several months into this crisis the UK has occupied the tragic position of having one of the highest death rates in the world. Such an unprecedented crisis would have been a challenge to any government and any group of Ministers, but we have to ask what is it about the UK’s governance and decision making during this time that resulted in such a high death rate? We were too slow into lockdown as the virus spread around the country. We have struggled all the way through over testing and PPE. And now we find the track and trace system promised will not be fully up and running for some time. The sense of a lack of grip at the heart of Government has grown. I believe our new leader Keir Starmer has done a very good job of pressing the Government on these issues and Boris Johnson looks increasingly uncomfortable being forced to answer basic questions about Government performance against claims made.
As the lockdown eases, we still have a high infection rate compared to neighbouring countries and there will still be significant anxiety among the population, many of whom are now being asked to go back to work. That’s why it is so important to get these issues of testing and tracking right.
It is also why we will need continued international co-operation over vaccines and the economic response. One big difference between this crisis and the financial crisis in 2007/8 is the lack of international co-ordination this time around as a more nationalist generation of leaders retreat to their own boundaries and try to fight the virus on a country by country basis.
My office and I have continued to try to help people as much as we can through this period. Issues raised with us have included anxiety about schools going back, the behaviour of Dominic Cummings, small business grants and the ongoing issue of local residents stuck in India.
One other very important issue has come to the fore in recent days – the killing of George Floyd and the light that it has shone on how people are treated both in the USA and here in the UK. No one could fail to be horrified by the footage of the life being squeezed from him as he lay on the ground. George Floyd’s killing has provoked a wave of protest from people demanding equality before the law. At a time like this you need unifying leadership but that is not what we have seen from the US president. He has, as usual, sought to divide, to threaten and to reduce everything to a trial of strength.
Inevitably, this has shone a light on the situation in the UK too. It would be grossly complacent to think racism was an American problem but not one here. We need to stand up for the equal worth of every person regardless of creed or colour not only as a written principle but as a daily act. And as your MP that is something I will always try to do.