People have made enormous sacrifices over recent weeks to make the lockdown work and beat Covid-19. This is a national effort to beat a virus which affects all of us and we must all play our part no matter what job we have or position we hold.
I therefore understand why people are angry that Dominic Cummings drove with his wife and son to his parents’ house in Durham. Personally it’s not something I would have done even if it was within the rules. I understand his reasoning for doing what he believed to be in the best interests of his loved ones and clearly that’s what motivated his decision to travel to Durham. However, this doesn’t change the fact that many of my constituents have also faced extremely challenging personal circumstances, some perhaps similar to Mr Cummings and yet they decided to “stay home”.
I have been contacted by constituents with many stories like this and behind each one is a human story and a unique set of circumstances. Sometimes there has been uncertainty around how some aspects of the guidance apply to individual cases and I’ve tried to help clarify where I can. But ultimately I’ve always said they must do what they believe to be in the best interest of them and their family while not endangering anyone else.
I watched the press conference today and the allegation that Mr Cummings made a second visit up to Durham was categorically denied and I believe that there is evidence to back up the fact that there was no second visit. It’s unfortunate that this aspect of the national media coverage like some other aspects has been misleading and inaccurate.
The press conference clarified some key points but some other questions do remain. I continue to have concerns regarding the trip to Barnard Castle, in particular why it was necessary to drive that far to test his eye sight and also the fact that he got out the other end.
Though I well understand much of the anger there is about there at the minute bearing in mind the sacrifices we have all been asked to make I do strongly oppose the behaviour of some who have sought to harass and intimidate Mr Cummings and his family. There is no room for it. This does seem to have been part of his calculation when he decided to travel to Durham.
I have been contacted by a large number of constituents on this matter and I want each of them to know that I have read each of their emails and considered their views carefully. Though some politically motivated individuals will have no doubt sought to use this whole episode to score political points this hasn’t been the case for the vast majority who have contacted me. They have legitimate concerns about what has gone on.
Though I believe his actions were motivated solely by the desire to protect his family, that he didn’t endanger the lives of others and that his situation was quite complex, I do believe he has made errors of judgement and frankly I do share much of the confusion and anger of many of my constituents.
I have and will continue to represent both the concerns of constituents and my own concerns to Government over the coming days.
I and many colleagues do have concerns that this is distracting from the central focus of Government right now which is to continue to tackle COVID-19 and set out a path to recovery. That needs to be the central task and all energy should be spent on this.
I do think it’s important that the Prime Minister reflects on the anger that this episode has caused and makes absolutely sure that we are able to move on from this ASAP to deal with the great challengers at hand for both my constituents and country more generally.
A few constituents have asked me about MP expenses during the coronavirus. Let me make absolutely clear, MP’s have not been awarded £10,000 extra pay. Clearly this would be a massive insult at a time when huge numbers of people across the country are struggling as a direct result of the crisis and if this was the case I would be the first person to label the situation as “disgraceful”. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) which is independent of MP’s, without my knowledge decided to make an extra £10,000 office costs available to MP’s to facilitate the transition to home working and to help communicate key information relating to COVID-19 to constituents. The feeling being that many MP’s need to have access to certain IT equipment to continue to provide services to constituents at a time when many offices have been closed, printers, laptops etc. As it happens I will not be accessing this money, both myself and my staff already have adequate access to IT equipment to carry on providing the same level of service to constituents. There is a printer in my Ipswich office so if necessary we can go to the office print/scan. My view is that increasing the office cost allowance by £10,000 is a little unnecessary but it was a decision taken by others and is beyond my control all I can do is account for my own office expenses. I have to say though I strongly object to the way this has been portrayed in the media. Its irresponsible journalism pitting people against each other at a time when we should be coming together to support each other.
I appreciate MPs are held in pretty low regard by many but its slightly frustrating to be accused of pocketing thousands of pounds by people who as a result of questionable journalism don’t seem to be fully aware of the facts. Like other MP’s since the outbreak of the coronavirus I have seen a significant increase in the number of constituents contacting me for help and advice and my number one priority is making sure I do everything I can to support them.
Following yesterday’s announcement by Government that there will be a £750 million fund to support the charitable sector today I wrote to every single charity in Ipswich encouraging them to get in contact with me if there is anything they think I might be able to do to support them. Yesterday’s announcement was welcome but crucial questions remain and its vital that this money gets to the charities who need it the most ASAP. There are a huge number of charities carrying out invaluable work often with highly vulnerable people across Town and as a result of the coronavirus many face an uncertain future due to the way in which their fundraising activity has been negatively impacted. As I said yesterday I’m glad that half of the £750 million is being reserved for small local charities that work with vulnerable people.
Here is an update about some of the amazing services that are available in our area to help you through this difficult time.
I know many of you still have a lot of questions surrounding Covid-19. I am working hard to keep everyone updated so please contact me if you have any further questions.
About two weeks ago I launched “Talking with Tom” so constituents can get in touch and fine a time to talk. This is particularly focused at anyone who is lonely due to self-isolation and it is for this reason why I have worked with AGE UK Suffolk to publicise it. I’ve had many chats with constituents over the past couple of weeks and have really enjoyed it so please do get in touch if you’d like to have a chat or if you know of anyone who might be interested. Frankly at times its felt that I’ve been benefiting from it as much as the people I’ve been calling especially following my own self-isolation last week. I am busy with emails etc but I have plenty of time to talk to you so please don’t hold back, email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on: 01473 599 155 to set up a time to talk.