I appreciate that for many the redacted report published yesterday by Sue Gray will fall very short of what they’re hoping for. It was scarce on both facts and details. The intervention by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner last week, and her comments in relation to the report, were regrettable in as much as they’ve led to a report that simply doesn’t give either myself or my constituents the full picture of what went on.
I imagine we will gain a fuller picture once the Metropolitan Police investigation concludes but I understand that this could drag on for weeks or even months. The sooner the full Sue Gray is published in its entirety the better. I’m pleased that the Prime Minister, in a meeting hosted with the Parliamentary Party yesterday evening, committed to doing just this. Until all of this is achieved it is very hard to see how a line can be drawn under the whole ordeal.
However, reports and investigations aside, we do already know a lot about what happened and enough to know that my constituents are right to feel badly let down.
Amongst other findings the report makes clear that there were failures of leadership by different parts of Number 10 and the Cabinet Office. It also states: “At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”
It’s very clear to me that none of this is acceptable, excusable, or defensible. I’m not a sycophant. If some of my colleagues want to behave like this then that’s up to them, but it’s not me, nor will it ever be me. When the leader of our Party makes a big mistake, I think it’s important to call this out and not morph into some kind of Corbynista groupie that ignores the reality of what’s happened. No one is beyond question or reproach. I honestly feel that so cack-handed have some of the interventions been by some of his allies that the best way they could be of assistance to the Prime Minister would be to disable all their social media platforms and cease carrying out media interviews. Silence would be preferable.
I do think however we need to balance all of this with the acknowledgement that just over two years ago the Prime Minister gained a stonking democratic mandate to govern. I think he deserves great credit for breaking the Brexit impasse and getting most of the big calls right when it comes to the pandemic. The vaccine drive in particular has been a great triumph and I’m incredibly pleased that, at this critical juncture, we are one of the most open economies and freest societies in the world. It would have been so easy for the Prime Minister to have caved in under significant pressure to introduce draconian restrictions around Christmas time and he didn’t. This is to his credit.
At a time when there is a real risk of war in Europe, and we face a cost-of-living crisis I am really not convinced that the Conservative Party plunging into a leadership contest for the next few months is in the best interests of my constituents and the country at large. Nor, barring any further significant developments do I believe that seeking to depose the Prime Minister, at this particular moment in time, is the proportionate thing to do.
The errors that have been made within the Number 10 operation are glaring, and the problematic culture is clear for all to see. The Prime Minister is right to apologise for all of this and to pledge to take urgent action to address it. I and other Parliamentary colleagues will hold him to this. I have personally made this clear to the Prime Minister on more than one occasion over the past week.
Bearing in mind the scale of rule breaking that appears to have taken place within Number 10 I’m clear in my own mind that there needs to be an almost total reset. When it comes to resignations and firings the most pertinent question to ask is not who goes? but who stays?
I have personally read all the many emails and letters that have been sent to me by constituents on this matter. I really do appreciate the strength of feeling. Many have shared with me harrowing stories detailing the sacrifices they were forced to make as a result of the rules that the Government introduced. Many were unable to say goodbye to loved ones and be with friends and family at critical junctures. They will never ever get these priceless moments back again. They were denied humanity, love, and personal contact at precisely the time they and their loves ones most needed it.
I don’t need to be told by anyone that this has “cut through”. It’s “cut through” to me personally. As a Member of Parliament, I asked my constituents to follow the rules. I followed the rules. And then to see those who played a role in drafting those rules showing such scant regard to them is sickening.
However, I must also point out that whilst out and about on the streets of Ipswich, knocking on doors over the past few weeks, many of my constituents are completely fed up with this saga and want the Prime Minister to be given the space to get on focusing on the country’s priorities, their priorities.
Sadly, the limited nature of the report published yesterday means it’s almost impossible to draw a firm line under all of this. Over the coming weeks I suspect we will all gain a fuller picture when it comes numerous aspects of what the limited report touched upon yesterday.
As it stands, barring any further significant developments, I support the Prime Minister in getting on and delivering upon all the great national priorities that lie in his in tray every morning. I also believe that he needs space and time to undertake the significant work that needs to be undertaken to regain public trust. This won’t be easy, but I do believe that he needs to be given an opportunity to do so.
I do believe that trust, truth, and integrity matter in politics and in public life more generally. I have quite evidently wrestled with this issue over the past few weeks and when reflecting upon my own views I’ve sought to listen to all the views of my constituent whilst doing do so, not just the loudest voices.
This is a deeply complex issue. A great many of us are angry about what has gone on, but the key question practically is what next?
Me earlier discussing Covid and whether there should be any further restrictions.
I wanted to write to Michelle and Mal at Aqua Pharmacy to congratulate them on the milestone that they reached last week of delivering their 10,000th dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
It is great that they are now delivering 2nd doses and that they have even started with vaccinations for the 45 and overs. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we discussed the initial idea of Aqua Pharmacy becoming a vaccination centre.
I have visited them a number of times and have helped them on a number of key issues over the past few months and I really just wanted to thank them for all of their efforts to help Ipswich combat this pandemic.
We’re on track. Since the road map was announced on 22 February we past through two “step 1” phases on 8 March and 29 March and I’m pleased that its now been 100% confirmed we will hit step 2 on Monday. I appreciate that many would like the Government to move faster but I’m glad that all those businesses and individuals who will be most impacted by the new environment on the 12th April have now been given certainty.
I for one can’t wait to get myself back at a pub (outside) with a pint in hand. Also rather keen to keen my increasingly unruly hair tamed but I will have to wait until my appointment on 23rd April for this.
I’m glad that “COVID status certification” or “COVID passports” have been ruled out for visiting the pub or shops etc (or anything connected to step 2 and 3 for that matter). No decisions have been made by Government on this yet so will hold fire before commenting extensively on press reports.
As you will have noticed I’ve been carrying out a number of surveys over the past month or so and I wanted to share the results of the latest survey. Like the last survey around 1,000 Ipswich residents took part and though I would hardly describe the survey as scientific, its still useful to get a bit of a snapshot of what my constituents are thinking regarding some of the key issues of the day. I shared the survey on my social media platforms and promoted to all those living in the Town and encouraged them to take part.
Here are the results:
- Do you agree with the Prime Minister’s plan to start the phased reopening of schools on 8th March?
- No, 8th March is too early to start reopening: 42%
- Yes, I agree with the plan: 48%
- Schools should reopen now: 10%
- Should all teaching staff be prioritised for the vaccine?
- Yes: 77%
- No: 23%
- Do you believe that any other key workers should be prioritised for the vaccine?
- All key workers should be: 70%
- Police: 17%
- Retail workers: 3%
- Do you believe University students should have to pay full tuition fees for the academic year 2020-2021?
- Partial refund: 70%
- Full refund: 21%
- Full fees: 9%
- Have you been satisfied with the vaccine roll out?
- Yes: 77%
- No: 12%
- Don’t know: 11%
- Do you believe that the temporary increase in Universal Credit should be extended beyond March?
- It should be extended for as long as the pandemic goes on for: 57%
- The increase should be made permanent: 21%
- No: 22%
I have to say that mostly these results correspond with my position on the key issues. I support the temporary extension of the Universal Credit increase beyond March but I’m wary about making it permanent. It’s clear at the moment many people are having to turn to the welfare state often for the first time in their lives due to the economic disruption caused by the pandemic and the support should be there for them. I also know that the effects of this pandemic will extend even beyond the current lockdowns and so I believe that adequate support should exist to keep everyone on their feet until the economy has fully recovered. However I also think that it would be wrong to commit to making the uplift permanent at this stage when we are still assessing what the impact of the pandemic will be on our public finances in the medium to long term.
I have to say, I also largely agree with the majority on the plan to reopen schools. Most people believe that schools should reopen on the 8th March. Any later than that, and I fear that our children will fall too far behind. Especially those with special educational needs who need in-person learning. Not only am I concerned for pupil’s level of attainment, but also their mental health. We need to get students back to school as soon as it is safe to do so.
The fact of the matter is that if all key workers are prioritised, I do fear that we would end up taking away vaccines from those most vulnerable to the virus, due to the sheer number of key workers that there are across the country. It is for this reason that I think we should keep the exception only for teachers. The huge societal importance of getting our schools fully open again asap as well as the exposure of teaching staff to the virus mean that there is a special case prioritisation, in my view.
In terms of university tuition fees, I have made the point before that I really do think students should not be paying full fees while they are unable to use the facilities and do not have access to the full university education that they would otherwise have had outside this pandemic. It is not fair on them at all. I am glad to see that the overwhelming majority of respondents agreed with this position.
Finally, I’m not surprised that the overwhelming majority of participants in the survey have been impressed with the vaccine roll out. Huge thank you to all those NHS workers and volunteers who have made this possible at the local level. We will never forget.
I appreciate that pandemic has been difficult for all this year, particularly those who are vulnerable and have been shielding for many months now. I know that many people have had their livelihoods badly affected and my thoughts are with those who has lost loved ones.
I’m putting out this survey which I hope you will make the most of, because I want to make sure I am best representing the views of my constituents with regards to lockdown measures, thoughts about vaccination priorities and people’s livelihoods.
The survey is very short and it would be great to get some responses which I can look over.